Uzbekistan has joined to the UNECE-WHO/Europe Protocol on Water and Health, thereby becoming its 29th Party and the first country in Central Asia to join this treaty. Accession to the Protocol is expected to serve as a catalyst to further drive and streamline national action on water, sanitation, hygiene and health with the aim of ensuring access and protecting the growing population of Uzbekistan against water-borne disease and in a changing climate.
With a population of 35 million, Uzbekistan faces significant challenges in the water sector, particularly as the most populated country in Central Asia with severe water stress. Access to water and sanitation services is relatively low, with stark geographical disparities: according to WHO/UNICEF, 71% of the rural population has access to safe drinking water as compared to 89% in urban areas, and only 32% of domestic wastewater is being safely treated. This, coupled with inefficient water use and social disparities, hampers social development, human rights and contributes to pollution. Impacts of climate change, such as droughts, high temperatures, heat waves, heavy precipitation and floods, further undermine protection of the environment and safe delivery of water and sanitation services.
Head of the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Welfare and Public Health Service, Mr. Bakhodir Yusupaliyev, emphasized: “Uzbekistan is committed to leverage the practical tools and intergovernmental framework provided by the Protocol to address the above challenges in an integrated manner, consolidating its efforts under the Uzbekistan-2030 Strategy, which entails priority directions such as ensuring health and well-being of the population and conservation of water resources and environmental protection, as well as the global commitment of achieving the 2030 Agenda, with a particular focus on SDGs 6 and 3”.
UNECE Executive Secretary Tatiana Molcean stated: “I welcome’s Uzbekistan’s accession to the Protocol on Water and Health, which will help put the commitment to uphold the human rights to water and sanitation into action. I encourage all countries in Central Asia and all UNECE member States to join this practical instrument, which is especially important to strengthen the resilience of water and health services to climate change”.
As a new Party to the Protocol, the country commits to set integrated targets on water, sanitation, hygiene and health, with a focus on climate impacts, and to regularly report on progress in achieving those targets. UNECE stands ready to provide support to the implementation of the above obligations under the Protocol, in particular thanks to the recently initiated project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
The Protocol on Water and Health, adopted in 1999, is a multilateral environmental agreement under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe). It seeks to protect the environment and safeguard human health and well-being by sustainably managing water resources and ensuring access to clean and safe water, sanitation, and hygiene for all. The Protocol provides a legal framework and a wealth of practical tools for countries of the pan-European region working collectively to address water and sanitation challenges, accelerate the achievement of SDGs 6, 3 and others, and support implementation of the relevant EU Directives on water and sanitation.
The deposit of the instrument of accession by Uzbekistan on 2 January 2024 follows the accession to the Protocol by North Macedonia in September 2023. With a number of other countries currently being in the process of accession, the Protocol is currently experiencing strong momentum in expanding its membership throughout the pan-European region.