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Environmental Dimensions of Emergencies

An environmental emergency typically occurs in the wake of a disaster or conflict, when lives and livelihoods are threatened by the release of hazardous substances, or because of significant damage to the ecosystem.

The UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit (JEU) responds to environmental dimensions of emergencies by coordinating international efforts and mobilizing partners to support countries that have requested assistance. In doing so, the JEU offers a wide range of services to holistically address the links between environment and emergencies.
For over 25 years, the JEU has successfully coupled UNEP’s technical expertise with OCHA’s humanitarian coordination mandate. The partnership assists countries affected by disasters and crises and works to enhance the sustainability of humanitarian action.
The JEU addresses:

Environmental Emergencies

Whether in response to natural hazards, technological accidents or a combination of both, the JEU can mobilize technical expertise at short notice (up to 48 hours) for deployment to affected countries and can also provide remote support.


These teams conduct rapid assessments, test for the presence of hazardous materials, analyze the possible impacts on communities, and help national authorities develop strategies to respond.


Sustainability of Humanitarian Action

The JEU promotes environmental issues as an integral part of all elements of humanitarian response, including across the humanitarian programme cycle. This means that environmental concerns are addressed and considered in needs assessment and analysis, strategic response planning, resource mobilization, and performance monitoring and evaluation.

Together with its partners, the JEU also works to strengthen adaptation to climate change in humanitarian settings, to increase collaboration between environmental and humanitarian actors and to mitigate environmental risks in humanitarian projects and programmes.

The JEU offers many services, notably:

  • Training experts to enhance readiness for deployment on UN environmental response missions
  • Deploying rapid mobilization of environmental experts within 48 hours of an emergency, at no cost to affected countries
  • Conducting remote environmental assessment and analysis
  • Providing customized tools and guidance
  • Sharing knowledge and online trainings
  • Strengthening interoperability between environmental, technical and humanitarian actors
  • Convening actors for joint action and advocacy
Since its establishment, the Unit has assisted almost 100 countries around the world, mobilizing over 200 missions.

Environmental Emergencies Centre (EEC): The EEC provides users with a one-stop-shop of information relevant to the preparedness, prevention and response stages of an environmental emergency. EEC strengthens the preparedness capacities of responders and humanitarians, allowing users to build on their own mechanisms and draw on the resources and services of EEC partners. 

The EEC Learning Centre hosts five free online learning courses on a range of environmental emergency preparedness and response topics. Learn how to conduct your own FEAT Assessment and improve your understanding of disaster waste management, chemical/industrial accidents and the importance of integrating the environment in humanitarian action.

Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) Connect: EHA Connect is a unique digital tool spanning the humanitarian-development nexus, designed to meet the needs of humanitarian and environmental actors as it helps environmental actors engage in the disaster space and humanitarians develop more resilient emergency management systems.


Environment Experts’ Hub (EEHub): The Environmental Experts Hub (EEHub) provides practical guidance to experts deploying on environmental emergency preparedness and response missions through the JEU.

Fact Sheets