Eastern European countries to discuss common challenges and solutions for water and health issues

Representatives of Belarus, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine will meet at a workshop in Minsk, Belarus, on 5-6 April 2011 to share experiences and discuss challenges related to the implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health. For the first time, ministries of environment, health, housing and utilities, of national health and hygiene institutes, water authorities and water committees, as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), will gather together to establish national and/or local targets and target dates in different water-related areas (article 6 of the Protocol).

The four countries, all Parties to the Protocol, are at different stages in its implementation and have different institutional arrangements and national legislation. They share however, similar legal, environmental and social backgrounds and face common challenges. These relate to increasing the access to water and sanitation in rural areas, maintaining water supply and sanitation infrastructures whose decay threatens health, limited financial means for water supply and sanitation sectors, and to the need to strengthen their surveillance systems. Additional challenges concern the prioritization of activities, the difficulties in cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination of activities among different authorities responsible for the management of water resources, water supply, sanitation and health, and the involvement of the public in the implementation of the Protocol.

The workshop is jointly organized by the Protocol Secretariat, provided by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and WHO/Europe, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus, and with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).