The Environment and Emergency Shelter: Building Environmental Capacities to Respond to Urgent Shelter Needs

ProAct Network has just finished implementation of the Integrating Critical Environmental Issues into Emergency Shelter Cluster Activities project funded by UNHCR through CARE International. The project focused on developing human capacities and technical resources to integrate environmental issues into emergency shelter operations.

Creating a cadre of Environment Advisors was one of the project's objectives. Shelter specialists often have little time to consider environmental issues during emergencies. Environment Advisors can support emergency shelter operations by bring environmental awareness and knowledge to the provision of shelter following a disaster. training1The training materials developed by Interworks were piloted in two regional trainings. The first training took place in mid-March in Sri Lanka for the South Asia region. The second training took place in Honduras in early April for the Central America/Caribbean region. The Sri Lanka training had a total of 16 participants and took place in collaboration of RedR UK through their Sri Lanka office. The Honduras training had a total of 17 participants and was held in collaboration with WWF United States and WWF Central America. One of the highlights of both training was a field exercise where trainees were able to use the Emergency Shelter Environmental Impact Assessment and Action Checklist, an assessment tool developed by ProAct Network under the project.

Both trainings were considered as a success by the organizers and participants. The trainings increased the number of potential Shelter Cluster Environment Advisors from eight to 46 individuals, with many potential advisors speaking a second language fluently. training2Also in April ProAct Network undertook a rapid assessment of environmental conditions related to the displacement of conflict-affected populations in northern Sri Lanka. The assessment was initiated at the request of UNHCR and completed in cooperation with CARE International in Sri Lanka. ProAct Network hired a participant in the Sri Lanka Environment Advisor training living in Sri Lanka and supported her with a more experience Environment Advisor in a mentoring role.

The assessment indentified a number of significant environmental challenges related to the IDP sites in northern Sri Lanka. The assessment recommended Sri Lanka NGOs take a greater role in addressing environment-related environmental issues at the IDP sites, the posting of an Environment Advisor to support relief operations, and greater engagement between humanitarian organizations and the government on medium and long term planning to create environmentally sustainable IDP sites. training3Download the training modules (linked to 3.3.17)