Bridging intersectoral gaps for health
Responsibilities for water resources development and management are fragmented over many sectors. Human health should be a cross-cutting issue throughout the decision-making in different sectors and at different levels. The promotion of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) creates new options to include a health component into water resources projects.
The WHO WSH programme focuses on health in water policy/strategy frameworks. WHO is a participating organization in the Dialogue on Water for Food and the Environment, and WSH maintains contacts with the Global Water Partnership and the World Water Council. Within the UN system, WSH also provides WHO's link to the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) and collaborates with 22 other UN agencies under the WWAP umbrella on the triennial World Water Development Report.
Health in water policy/strategy frameworks
To address health in water resources development and management strategically it is essential that health concerns are incorporated into the policy frameworks within which water strategies are defined and decisions over water resources made. WHO has assisted a number of countries to initiate the process of sectoral policy review and revision. In at least one country (Ecuador) this has led to the formal establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Environmental and Health ministries for joint action in this area. WHO/WSH continues its activities in this area with interested governments.
Dialogue on Water for Food and the Environment
Following the 2nd World Water Forum in The Hague (2000) concern over the lack of focus on the looming crisis involving further increases in water allocation to the agricultural sector and the need to conserve water for essential environmental functions, motivated a group of ten stakeholders, led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), to start an initiative referred to as the Dialogue on Water for Food and Environment.
The Dialogue was formally established under Arrangements agreed by the ten Participating Organizations. It is a time-limited initiative with the objective to improve water resources management for food security and environmental sustainability, with a special focus on the reduction of poverty and hunger, and the improvement of human health. It will deliver its final report at the 4th World Water Forum in 2006. Three design workshops on managing the knowledge base, promoting national and basin-wide dialogues and encouraging local action were held in 2002 (reports are on the Dialogue web site).
Health is a cross-cutting issue in this initiative. It does not only bring an additional dimension to the Dialogue, but it also positions itself as a vehicle to overcoming the potential conflicts between the two main water user groups: agriculture and the environment.
Download the Amman workshop report:
At a meeting in Amman, Jordan (15-18 December 2003) the mechanisms to incorporate health in the dialogues were elaborated and capacity-building needs identified.
World Water Development Report: Water for people, Water for life
WSH is developing with the World Conservation Union (IUCN), another Dialogue partner, the health component in a wetlands conservation programme in the Mekong River Basin.
The WWDR is a periodic review, continuously updated and designed to provide an authoritative picture of the state of the world's freshwater resources and our stewardship of them.
It was initially commissioned by the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) from the then ACC Sub-committee on Water Resources. This coordination group of 23 UN agencies has meanwhile been restructured and is now known as UN-Water.
The first WWDR was launched at the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto (March 2003). Preparations for the second WWDR (scheduled for publication in 2006) are underway. The World Water Assessment Programme of Unesco is responsible for the process of preparing and producing the report.
Health features prominently in the 1st WWDR not only because it has a dedicated chapter (chapter 5, Basic needs and the right to health), but also because there are numerous health entries in the remaining 22 chapters.