Hazardous Waste in Humanitarian Crises
This report, commissioned by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) Emergency Preparedness and Environment Section (EPES) in partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), was completed by three researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). It examines the issue of hazardous waste generated in humanitarian crises and evaluates the challenges involved in ensuring proper hazardous waste management. The study addresses the moral and legal imperatives of proper hazardous waste management and outlines various tangible solutions currently being used by humanitarian actors in the field. Furthemore, it offers a series of recommendations based on the needs of the beneficiaries and stakeholders involved. Finally, the report presents several opportunities for further research, notably surrounding the expansion of data collection of hazardous waste management.
Harm done to human health and the environment as a result of waste generated through humanitarian operations is a growing yet neglected issue facing the humanitarian community today. Lead acid and other toxic chemicals from batteries entering the waste stream in Nepal after the distribution of dignity kits is an example that illustrates the unintended effects of improper hazardous waste management in humanitarian settings.
Ensuring the proper management of hazardous waste in humanitarian settings will lead to improved outcomes for affected populations. Tackling the issue of hazardous waste from the earliest stages of humanitarian action through to its effective treatment and disposal reduces the overall risk posed to health and the environment. By doing so, humanitarians can also better abide by the moral and legal imperatives of Do No Harm and Duty of Care. Integrating responsible hazardous waste management with in humanitarian operations is a crucial element of environmental mainstreaming and can make a significant difference.