Environmental Emergencies


An environmental emergency typically occurs in the wake of a natural disaster or conflict, when lives and livelihoods are threatened by the release of hazardous substances, or because of significant damage to the ecosystem. Environmental emergencies include oil spills, the dumping of toxic waste, and the pollution of groundwater.

OCHA responds to environmental emergencies by coordinating international efforts and mobilizing partners to support countries that have requested assistance.

The Joint United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/OCHA Environment Unit (JEU), housed within OCHA’s Emergency Services Branch, helps Member States to prepare for and respond to environmental emergencies.

By pairing UNEP’s technical expertise with OCHA’s humanitarian response coordination structure, the JEU ensures an integrated approach in responding to environmental emergencies.

The JEU provides independent, impartial advice and practical solutions, while working with organizations dedicated to medium and long term rehabilitation to ensure a seamless transition from emergency response to recovery.

Priority areas

The JEU focuses on three mutually reinforcing priority areas:


In the first hours after an environmental emergency, the JEU can mobilize experts and equipment, such as mobile laboratories, to the affected area.

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.


The JEU raises awareness among communities, disaster responders, governments and industries on the impacts of environmental emergencies and the presence of hazardous materials that may be released during a disaster.

Environment in Humanitarian Action

The JEU works to promote that environmental issues are 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 mobilisation, performance monitoring and evaluation.

The JEU also works with partners to integrate the environment into global cluster guidance and at country levels to develop specific action plans in priority countries.


Report: Environment and Humanitarian Action - Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability and Accountability
Environmental Emergencies Center (EEC) website  
Disaster Waste Management Guidelines
FEAT 2.0 Pocket Guide
Overview of 2016 Missions
Resources Database - The Environmental Emergencies Centre (EEC) resources database contains a large variety of tools, guidelines, reports, publications, legal documents, media and advocacy materials.
Training - A range of online and face-to-face training opportunities.
EEC Global Community - The EEC Global Community actively contributes at the advocacy and policy development level, so to ensure more countries are not only better prepared to respond to crisis, but also more resilient in the face of recurring disasters.
Humanitarian Response


Fact Sheets
Joint UNEP/OCHA [EN - FR - SP]
Environmental Emergencies Center EEC [EN - FR  - SP]
Emergency Response Services [ENSP]
UN Assistance to Environmental Emergencies [EN - FR - SP]


  • Beyond Response [EN - FR - SP]
  • Disaster Waste Management [EN - FR - SP]
  • Environment in Humanitarian Action [EN - FR]
  • Flash Environmental Assessment Tool 2.0 [EN]
  • Industrial Accidents [EN - FR - SP]
Environmental Emergencies Risk Index [EN - FR]
EHA concept note
Environment in Humanitarian Action and Inter-Cluster Coordination
Environmental Emergency Forum
Green Star Awards



Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit
OCHA Emergency Services Branch
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
E-mail: ochaunep@un.org

For emergencies only:
+41 22 917 2010 (OCHA Duty Officer)

  Environmental Emergencies Centre website