OCHA responds to the humanitarian consequences of natural disasters and other emergencies by coordinating international efforts and mobilizing partners to help countries that request assistance.
The Joint United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/OCHA Environment Unit (JEU), within the OCHA Emergency Services Branch, helps Member States to prepare for and respond to environmental emergencies.
By pairing UNEP’s technical expertise with OCHA’s strong humanitarian response coordination structure, the JEU ensures an integrated approach in responding to environmental emergencies.
OCHA also provides independent, impartial advice and practical solutions. It works with organizations dedicated to medium- and long-term rehabilitation to ensure a seamless transition to the disaster recovery process.
|An environmental emergency is a sudden-onset disaster or accident resulting from natural, technological or human-induced factors, or a combination of these, that causes or threatens to cause severe environmental damage as well as harm to human health and/or livelihoods.|
|Large-scale natural disasters, such as Tropical Storm Bopha in 2012 in the Philippines, pose many secondary risks to affected people. Through OCHA and the JEU, United Nations agencies and other partners can help to identify and address these risks.|
Technological and Industrial Accidents
|Following the March 2012 ammunition-depot explosions in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, environmental samples were taken as part of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) mission. No major traces of pollutants were found in soil and groundwater following the explosions, paving the way for a speedy recovery of the affected areas. OCHA and UNDAC mission reports highlight potential industrial threats to local people.|
Conflict and War
|Following the bombing of the fuel storage tanks in Lebanon in 2006, some 70 entities (international organizations, private sector and governments)provided international support to the ensuing oil spill in the Mediterranean. OCHA provides coordination and support to ensure effective response in such complex emergencies.|
Preparing for an environmental emergency
OCHA helps countries to improve their ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. Upon request, OCHA will deploy multi-stakeholder teams to assess the strengths and weaknesses of national and local response systems, after which it will increase national capacity by providing technical advice and training, and assisting national authorities and stakeholders in developing a comprehensive contingency plan.
OCHA and the JEU work with UNEP, the Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (AGEE), national focal points, and other United Nations agencies and programmes, not only to develop policies, guidelines and tools for environmental emergency response, but to ensure other humanitarian response tools and guidelines take the environment into consideration.
In close collaboration with its partners, the JEU has developed the Environmental Emergencies Centre (EEC). This is a unique, innovative online preparedness tool designed to strengthen national responders’ capacity in environmental emergencies by building on their own mechanisms and drawing on EEC partners’ resources and services.
Through its extensive networks, OCHA also maintains a roster of trained environmental experts to work as an integral part of UNDAC and other international response-and-preparedness missions.