Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Health Systems - Healthcare workforce
Ensuring adequate healthcare workforce at all levels
Supporting healthcare workers to operate in a safe working environment

Supporting healthcare workers to operate in a safe working environment


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Environmental factors might increase health needs and the use of health items as well as increase the need for staff. Healthcare workers’ safety depends on various factors including environmental factors. Environmental hazards can increase the risk healthcare workers face in general and on a daily basis. Additionally, as environmental factors affect the population’s health, it indirectly plays a role in the workers’ safety. For example, if environmental factors contribute to disease spread, it can lead to a higher number of cases which in turn increases the risk for healthcare workers to get infected.

Moreover, natural hazards affect the entire local population, including the healthcare workers present in the location. Workers also face risks in relation to items and services related to healthcare, such as unmanaged healthcare waste or unsafe health processes.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Ensure equal training opportunities for women, the disabled, and others. Additionally, it is important to ensure women’s safety in the workplace.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate change
Natural resource Depletion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on wellbeing / mental health

Summary of Impacts
Potential environmental impacts

Untrained staff can implement health activities that have undesired negative environmental impacts, such as creating waste, pollution, or even spreading disease. This increases the risks healthcare workers face as well as causes further health problems to the population through the contamination of air, water, and soil.

Degradation of the surrounding environment can increase the impacts of existing environmental hazards.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Training staff according to national and international standards helps ensure the appropriate management of health facilities, essential medical products, and technologies, which in turn helps ensure workers’ safety. For example, staff needs to be properly trained in order to ensure adequate and safe disposal and management of medical items, including plastic and other recyclable products as well as chemical and hazardous products. This will not only ensure staff safety but also reduce possible environmental impacts, such as water and soil contamination.

Additionally, if the surrounding environment is depleted or polluted, healthcare workers face higher vulnerability and risks from environmental hazards. For example, deforestation increases the risk of landslides during heavy rains or floods.


Summary of environmental activities
  • Train staff in local environmental vulnerabilities, hazards, community environmental behaviours impacts of humanitarian activities on the environment.
  • Ensure effective infection prevention and control training and practice
  • Training in the environmental impacts of health systems
  • Training in environmental hazards and risks
  • Training on projected impacts of climate change
  • Occupational health training and immunisations
  • Training in environmental determinants of health
  • Appropritate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – sustainably sourced and re-usable.
Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities
  • Train staff for their roles according to national standards or international guidelines. Ensure this training identifies and effectively addresses local environmental vulnerabilities, environmental hazards, community environmental behaviours, and the existing or potential impacts of humanitarian activities on the environment.
  • Infection prevention and control should be given a central place in the training and supervision of healthcare workers and ancillary staff – e.g.: hand hygiene and basic daily principles of infection control.
  • Engage the health workforce and its associations and unions in embedding environmental sustainability and resilience into health system culture through clear policies, capacity-building, and motivation.
  • Educate the health workforce about the environmental impacts of health systems
  • Ensure the health workforce is protected from environmental hazards and that health is promoted in the workplace
  • Ensure that the health workforce is prepared and able to adapt to environmental emergencies, different environmental conditions, and projected impacts of climate change.
  • Implement and advocate for all possible measures to protect healthcare workers in conflicts.
  • Provide occupational health training and immunisations for hepatitis B and tetanus for clinical workers.
  • Provide training in environmental determinants of health.
  • Supply adequate Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to carry out staff duties.
Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

UNICEF responding to the Covid-19 spread in Yemen demonstrated that there were existing trained health staff available in the community who could be incentivised to return to work in the public health sector and help reduce the spread of the disease. Their refresher training included environmental determinants of health.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

# of trainings that address environmental determinants of health, environmental vulnerabilities, environmental hazards, behaviours, adaptations and mitigations.

Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and resources to develop and adapt training to address environmental drivers, risks, hazards, behaviours and impacts as well as adaptations and mitigations.

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