Disasters and the environment are connected.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Environment and Disaster Management (EDM) program collaborates with humanitarian and development agencies, the United Nations (UN), academic institutions and others to integrate environmental considerations into disaster recovery, reconstruction, and risk reduction programs and policies, and to learn and develop new approaches. The program was formed during the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and in the years since we have worked in partnership to provide support, training, and development of new approaches for environmentally responsible disaster management in Belize, Chile, Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Key Messages


There are strong links between natural hazards and the environment.

Healthy natural systems can often reduce the risk of disasters: for example, intact forests reduce the risk of shallow landslides and flooding by binding the soil and absorbing precipitation. Mangroves can reduce the risk of storm surges in low-lying coastal areas.

Degraded natural systems (e.g. through deforestation, severe overgrazing or overharvesting) are less able to play this role, placing nearby and downstream settlements, infrastructure and other human activities at greater risk.


International humanitarian standards require that recovery and reconstruction efforts avoid inadvertently degrading the environment and creating new hazards.

This includes, for example, extensively logging a hillside for timber to rebuild housing, which may damage water sources, or result in future landslides that threaten settlements or rebuilding housing in a floodplain. Inadequate treatment and disposal of sewage from buildings can pollute water bodies and spread disease. Mining building sand and stone from rivers in an inappropriate way may cause erosion and cutting of the streambed, threatening nearby bridges and buildings and downstream water use; and increased sediment loads in the water which can affect aquatic plants, animals and hence livelihoods of fishing communities.

Incorporating green practices into recovery and reconstruction to maintain ecosystem services and restoring degraded natural systems as part of the effort can reduce future disaster hazards.

This could include, for example, allowing an embanked floodplain to flood again, in order to help absorb the flood and reduce its downstream consequences. Restoring degraded ecosystems through sound management and governance can not only reduce disaster risk, but also increase productivity of natural resources, helping to enhance livelihoods and assets including those of poor and marginalized people who are often the most vulnerable to disasters.

Meet the EDM Team

Anita van Breda


Anita van Breda is Senior Director of Environment and Disaster Management at World Wildlife Fund and has over 20 years' experience in conservation and disaster management. In her current role she leads WWF's work supporting environmentally responsible disaster recovery, reconstruction and risk reduction including international policy, operations and training. Anita was instrumental in WWF's development of the Green Recovery and Reconstruction Training Toolkit (GRRT) and has worked with a range of humanitarian and development agencies on disasters around the world. A graduate from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Anita is co-lead of the UN Emergency Shelter Cluster Environment Community of Practice; serves as advisor on environment, disaster risk reduction and climate change for the Sphere Project; and is a member of the OCHA/UNEP Joint Environment Unit advisory group.

Phone +1 202.495.4618
Email [email protected]

Missaka Hettiarachchi


Missaka Hettiarachchi is a civil and environmental engineer by training and holds a PhD in environmental planning and policy from the University of Queensland, Australia. Currently, Missaka is a World Wildlife Fund Fellow based in Sri Lanka who supports the WWF Environment and Disaster Management program. He was a project manager for the WWF and American Red Cross partnership in Sri Lanka (2008-2010) and served as environmental adviser for the UN Emergency Shelter Cluster following the Haiti Earthquake (2010) and Typhoon Haiyan Philippines (2013). Missaka also conducted GRRT training in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake. Missaka is also actively engaged in teaching and research on environmental planning and policy in Sri Lanka and Australia.

Email [email protected]

Ana Victoria Rodriguez


Ana Victoria is currently a Climate Change Officer for WWF in Guatemala. Before joining WWF, Ana Victoria worked as National Advisor for Municipal Public Services with the German International Cooperation (GIZ) in Guatemala. She previously served as Executive Director of the Association for Environmental Recovery, Management and Sanitation (ARMSA). Ana Victoria currently teaches courses on municipal development at San Carlos and Mariano Galvez Universities in Guatemala. Ana Victoria has a civil engineering degree from San Carlos University in Guatemala and a master's in public administration from the National Institute of Public Administration of Guatemala, and she holds post-graduate diplomas, on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol from the Instituto Latinoamericano de Ciencias, ILC, Peru, and an Environment, Natural Resources and Development from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO).

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Judy Oglethorpe


Judy Oglethorpe is currently Senior Director, Innovative Conservation Approaches. Judy was formerly the Chief of Party for the Hariyo Ban I Program, which worked to reduce adverse impacts of climate change and threats to biodiversity in Nepal. The Hariyo Ban partners led green recovery and reconstruction training related to floods in 2014 and for the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Judy has experience integrating environmental issues in programs related to climate adaptation, health, population, poverty, livelihoods, conflict, transboundary conservation, and large-scale conservation. She worked for 14 years in Southern/East Africa in biodiversity, forest and wildlife conservation; and community based natural resource management. She has an MSc in Environmental Management, University of London and a BSc in Ecological Science, University of Edinburgh.

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Luz Cervantes


Luz Cervantes is a Program Officer for the Environment and Disaster Management program. She previously served as senior project officer for the Science Based Targets initiative at CDP North America Inc. Luz holds a MA in Climate and Society from Columbia University as well as a MA/Bsc in Environmental Management from the Free University of Brussels.

Email [email protected]

Daniel Vernick


Daniel Vernick is a Communications Associate for the Environment and Disaster Management program. A graduate of Yale College, Daniel studied climate change in Bolivia, Morocco, and Vietnam and wrote his senior essay on climate-induced displacement in the eastern Caribbean. Prior to his current role, Daniel worked on global climate policy for the WWF International Climate Cooperation Program and the Conservation International Global Strategy Department.

Email [email protected]

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