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Project title: Improving water, sanitation, hygiene and health through implementation of the programme of work of the Protocol on Water and Health

Duration: 2021-2023 

Implementing entity: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) 

Cooperating entity: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) 

Beneficiary countries: Primary beneficiaries are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Other countries in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus will also benefit from the project’s activities by promoting sub-regional exchange. 

A woman sitting in fornt of her house, gaising at the camera


The objective is to strengthen the capacity of countries in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to set and implement water, sanitation, hygiene and health targets under the UNECE-WHO/Europe Protocol on Water and Health, with a view to strengthening resilience against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and to promote cooperation, exchange of experience and scale-up of successful sanitation approaches at the sub-regional level. 


Safeguarding human health through improving access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and reducing water-related diseases is a global development challenge that has been a significant issue for countries of Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. The situation is particularly challenging in rural areas, where the vulnerability of the population is explained not only by geographical factors but also by socio-economic ones. The poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized are the ones who lack access to good quality services, affecting socio-economic development and perpetrating existing inequities. 

Furthermore, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected most of the countries in the subregion, exacerbating underlying problems and heightening the need for increased resilience for this and other infectious diseases. The pandemic has highlighted the close connection between water and health; in the absence of a vaccine or effective treatment, frequent handwashing with soap is a simple but effective intervention to prevent the spread of disease. This requires a steady supply of safe drinking water and operational sanitation systems, including under challenging circumstances such as climate change. 

Target audience 

The project will specifically target government authorities responsible for water, sanitation and health in the beneficiary countries as well as water and sanitation operators, national experts, civil society, the private sector and academia. In addition, water, sanitation and health experts from beneficiary countries will also be involved in subregional activities.  

Project outputs 

Project output 1.1

Organizing three kick-off workshops/webinars in beneficiary countries in order to review targets previously set under the Protocol or under other international commitments and to promote the setting of COVID-19 sensitive targets under the Protocol 

Project output 1.2

Providing advisory services by organizing missions and/or webinars and assisting policymakers and/or other relevant stakeholders in beneficiary countries in developing sanitation policies in line with WHO Guidelines on Sanitation and Health, including considering climate-resilient sanitation systems and newly emerging aspects in light of COVID-19 

Project output 2.1

Organizing a sub-regional workshop/webinar for policymakers and experts in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to promote exchange of scientific knowledge on the potential benefits and limitations of environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater as an early warning system for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases 

Project output 3.1

Organizing a sub-regional training for policymakers and experts in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to share international best practices in the area of access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and prevention of infectious diseases in support of setting COVID-19 sensitive targets under the Protocol, and in support of the implementation of SDG 6 and SDG 3