United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and WHO/Europe launch first analytical tool to measure disparities in access to water and sanitation
Copenhagen and Geneva, 25 November 2013
In the WHO European Region, access to water and sanitation varies widely between countries, provinces and even people in the same communities, regardless of countries’ level of development. A major difficulty in addressing these inequities is the lack of both a detailed picture of the level of access for all population groups and a clear understanding of the main factors in the origin of the inequities. This is especially relevant at times of financial crisis.
For the first time, inequities in access to water and sanitation can be measured with a new analytical tool, launched today by UNECE and WHO/Europe. They present the Equitable Access Score-card for the third session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (on 25–27 November 2013 in Oslo, Norway), whose agenda gives priority to fair access to water and sanitation.
In 2011, one in nine inhabitants of the European Region still lacked access to piped drinking-water at home and 67 million people lacked access to improved sanitation facilities, hampering the achievement of the water-related target of Millennium Development Goal 7 by 2015. Designed under the framework of the Protocol on Water and Health, the Score-card will help countries establish an equity baseline for access to water and sanitation in order to identify action needed for improved access and to evaluate their progress.
The Score-card provides a checklist to enable a country, region or city to gather, organize and evaluate information. Users can make a comprehensive overview of existing policy measures on fair access to water and sanitation by answering the following questions.
- Are there disparities in access to water and sanitation between geographical areas?
- Do vulnerable and marginalized groups have the same level of access to water and sanitation as the better off?
- Can everybody afford to pay for these services?
- Are there strategic and financial policies to ensure equitable access?
Any country, region or city in the world can use the Score-card to make a self-assessment and monitor its results over time. The Score-card has already been used in various settings.
- In France, in recognition of the benefits of self-assessment in the greater Paris urban area, the national health and environment plan included a recommendation that regional health agencies use the Score-card to identify inequities and develop a strategy to reduce them.
- In Portugal, the self-assessment highlighted information gaps, especially on vulnerable and marginalized groups’ access. It also provided input to the revision of the national strategic plan for water.
- In Ukraine, an exercise in Sebastopol revealed that the homes of users who could not pay their bills would be disconnected from the sewage system. This led to the organization of a wide public consultation to find a solution.
Use of the Score-card brings together representatives of the health, environment, social and other sectors, as well as water and sanitation operators and civil society, to address inequalities in access to basic services. The Meeting of the Parties will include a special session on equitable access to safe drinking-water and sanitation, focusing on fair and innovative ways to reach universal access and calling for action to eliminate disparities.
Note for editors
- The third session of the Meeting of the Parties will review the implementation of activities over the past three years and discuss future activities in various areas of work under the Protocol on Water and Health, including equitable access.
- The Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes is the first major international legal instrument for the prevention, control and reduction of water-related diseases in Europe. UNECE and WHO/Europe jointly provide the secretariat for the Protocol.
- The Protocol specifies that, in pursuing access to drinking-water and provision of sanitation for everyone, special consideration should be given to ensuring equitable access to these services for all members of the population.
- The Equitable Access Score-card builds on three policy concerns identified by UNECE and WHO/Europe (1): reducing geographical disparities, overcoming the barriers faced by vulnerable and marginalized groups and addressing affordability concerns.
- The European Region comprises 53 countries, with a population of nearly 900 million people.
For further information, please contact:
Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44
Tel.: +45 39 17 13 79
(1) No one left behind: good practices to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation. Geneva: UNECE; and Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2012 (http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=29170)