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Improving water and health in central, South Eastern and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus

Background:

An estimated 140 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in the UNECE region, making them vulnerable to such water-related diseases as cholera, bacillary dysentery, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and malaria that threaten the health of millions of people, most prominently in countries in South-Eastern Europe (SEE), Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA).

    To address these issues, there is a need for implementing a holistic approach that integrates environmental, health and development policies. The 1999 Protocol on Water and Health to the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes provides such an approach. The Protocol aims to protect human health by preventing, controlling and reducing water-related diseases through the protection and sustainable management of water resources.

    Objective:

    To strengthen capacity of EECCA and SEE countries to develop efficient and coordinated national strategies for the protection of human health, the sustainable management of water resources, and improved access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, through implementing the Protocol on Water and Health.

    Expected Accomplishments:

    • Improved capacity in EECCA and SEE countries to better manage water resources, protect and restore water ecosystems, and reduce water-related diseases using the approach of the Protocol

    • Improved capacity in EECCA and SEE countries to develop comprehensive national and/or local surveillance and early-warning systems, contingency plans and response capacities in relation to water-related disease

    • Improved capacity in EECCA and SEE countries to set targets and target dates for standard level of performance in the fields of environment, water management and health, to collect and evaluate data and to report on progress achieved in preventing, controlling or reducing water-related diseases

    • Increased awareness among experts, practitioners and the general public on the causes and effects of water-related diseases, and links between the state of environment, management of natural resources and the state of public health

    Implementation Status:

    Many of the activities foreseen within the project have been successfully implemented. The events organized under the project, attracted a broad range of national authorities representing environment, water and health sectors, as well as academia and non-governmental organizations. The fact that different sectors from the same country were present at these events was an important factor. The cross-sectoral discussions and exchange of experience which took place at the international workshops/meetings continued at the national levels. Following the approach of the Protocol on Water and Health, a number of countries either established multi-sectoral steering committees on water and health or included water and health related issues in the exiting programmes/ bodies/processes (e.g. National Policy Dialogues on Integrated Water Resources Management). The project activities led to an increase of discussions on water and sanitation and brought them high on the political agenda in many countries of the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) and Central, South-Eastern Europe (SEE) regions. Several countries reported on their initial steps and their willingness to ratify the Protocol on Water and Health and apply its provisions to protect human health, through improved water management and prevention, control and reduction of water related diseases.

    The guidelines/guidance documents developed within this project relied on a broad consultative process. All documents are available in English and Russian languages, some of them have been already published and tested at the country level with positive results.