On 29 May 2020, the CAREC Institute, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and UNICEF co-hosted a webinar on the role of Multilateral Development Partners (MDP) in response to Covid-19 in CAREC with emphasis on water, sanitation, and hygiene. The topic emerged from the ongoing CAREC Institute and UNICEF partnership which has ventured to undertake a comparative analysis of water resource management policies and practices in CAREC. This webinar aimed at enhancing understanding of the role of MDPs in combating Covid-19; how MDP programs help improve resilience to epidemics; and linkages among sanitary services and water accessibility during and after Covid-19 pandemic.
Recognizing that countries with fragile infrastructure and outdated approaches have less capacity to handle the health crisis, the webinar convened around 70 experts from international development and research organizations and government officials from the region to propose practical recommendations for resource mobilization and other policy measures.
Currently, a large number of International Financial Institutions (IFI) and MDPs are making financing available to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The importance of water and hygiene in these times could not be overestimated. A projected 22 million people in Central Asia alone, or 31 percent of the population, still lack access to safe water. Across CAREC, access to drinking water ranges from 50% to 95%, access to sanitation is between 40 and 80%. The current economic downturn, growing public debt and structural problems make investment in water infrastructure risky, while the demand for infrastructure investment in the region is estimated at around 5-7% of the GDP annually.
The webinar participants discussed how multilateral development partners have been tested by this pandemic, and resilience and agility which the institutions demonstrated. The webinar concluded with a better understanding how to deepen partnerships and enhance synergies with governmental programs to help countries recover and improve resilience to similar future challenges.