Water Sanitation Health

Environmental health in emergencies and disasters

Villagers carry relief goods as they walk among debris
Photo: Keystone

Emergencies and disasters can occur anywhere in the world, affecting human health, people’s lives and the infrastructure built to support them. Environmental health problems arising from emergencies and disasters are connected to their effects on the physical, biological and social environment that pose a threat to human health, well-being and survival: shelter, water, sanitation, disease vectors, pollution, etc.

WHO’s work concerns not only effective response to emergencies derived from disasters but also reducing the vulnerability of communities to hazards and increasing their ability to withstand disruption and to recover rapidly.

Frequently asked questions in case of emergency

This list of questions and answers provides answers to some of the issues that come up most frequently in relation to water and sanitation in emergency situations. They are divided into four categories—Health risks linked to drinking-water and sanitation; health risks due to stagnant water; and immediate actions in respect of water, sanitation and hygiene.

Fact sheets

Four different kinds of fact sheets are provided. The first gives information on water, sanitation and hygiene specifically in emergency situations. The second is useful in a broader context. The third provides information on vector-borne diseases in an emergency situation. Lastly, a series of fact sheets shows how a variety of disease are affected by water and sanitation.

Guidelines and technical guidance

WSH publications provide authoritative scientific and technical information. Linked here are those of most relevance to emergency preparedness, response and reconstruction efforts.

Related sites

This section provides links to key sites covering the South East Asia tsunami and earthquake, and other disasters

See also