8 April 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting questions for the water supply and sanitation sector globally and with a special focus on the Mediterranean, already under stress due to the water scarcity caused by the climate crisis. The UfM and the Institut Méditerranéen de l’Eau (IME) met online for the first brainstorming session on the water, sanitation and COVID19, along with 25 partners and experts from Lebanon, Spain, France, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. This is the first of a series of meetings to exchange views on the water emergency response to the pandemic as well as to give policy recommendations on how to move forward.
The meeting was inaugurated by Nasser Kamel, Secretary General of the UfM, and Alain Meyssonnier, President of the IME, who underlined in his opening statement how crucial it is “to provide water and sanitation services for all people during the crisis as they are the first to fight against this pandemic. IME will continue advocating with the UfM and other partners in order to guarantee that proper information, capacities and recommendations are provided to water operators in the Mediterranean to enable them to respond to this crisis and beyond”.
Secretary General Kamel further highlighted in his opening remarks that “it is the moment to start thinking how to realize plans as per the UfM Water Agenda and turn the water sector into a net contributor to the economy by advancing the water employment and water energy nexus to create more investment, jobs and entrepreneurship in the Mediterranean. The aftermath of the COVID19 will require a shift in our approach towards more sustainable production and consumption”.
The participants agreed that there was a need to exchange best practices, lessons learned as well as the emergency plans that water and utility operators have prepared in order to cope with the crisis. At the same time, essential materials used in the fight against the virus need to be made available for citizens, hospitals and vital facilities.
The UfM concluded that two distinct phases in any water response to the COVID-19 crisis are needed:
- First, the emergency response phase: Access to safe water is paramount to successfully fight the coronavirus. Ensure that water and sanitation systems in the Mediterranean continue to operate at high standards in order to provide safe water is key. Healthy workers, assured supplies of chemicals and other essential products, and adequate maintenance of the water and sanitation systems are also essential.
- Second, the recovery phase: The broader water sector will be called to play a key part in the economic recovery of UfM Member States. Water (in a winder sense, including coastal waters) is a key component of the productive systems – from agriculture, to energy production, to industrial production, to transport, to tourism. Many jobs are related to and dependent on effective and efficient water service delivery. But for the water sector broadly, and the water and sanitation sector in particular, to deliver those services, its financial sustainability needs to be ensured.
IME and UfM will organise a second meeting on 27 April 2020 to extend the question to the Eastern Mediterranean Members.
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