European Environment & Health Process

Progress report, country examples: Albania, France, Netherlands, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia

A large part of health problems are linked to environmental pollution, what good examples exist to change this?

In June 2017, Member States from 53  countries committed at the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health to develop national portfolios for action on improving environmental health. This is laid down in the Ostrava Declaration which has 7 priority areas, and is aligned with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. We collected good examples and recommendations from a number of countries, which we recommend should be part of national portfolio’s of action.

  • In the Netherlands we supported actions to improve environmental health with small grants, for example, greening children’s playgrounds in cities (pesticide free and with trees), and supporting the ‘bicycle school’ for refugee and migrant women on how to use a bicycle.
  • France has continuously strengthened it National Environment and Health strategies and plans, to which our WECF France office has contributed. The French plan has an integrated approach to addressing Environmental Health Challenges and includes 10 immediate actions, for example to ban hormone-disrupting chemicals in baby products, and to stop spraying pesticides near schools. Our French office contributes to the implementation of the National Environment and Health plan, including through its Nesting program to inform parents on how to keep toxics away from their new born children, to avoid life-long health damage, see here
  • In Albania, our partners Women in Development did a survey among 198 local women, men and youth and asked five questions about the relation of health and water, sanitation, energy and economic situation.

Menstrual hygiene

The interviews showed that children often prefer not to use school toilets as they have inadequate hygiene. The problem is more burdensome for girls and women, because in menstrual periods they need more privacy and better hygienic-sanitary conditions. School toiletries lack toilet paper, soap and towels. There is also a lack of waste bins. The phenomenon of school drop-outs on menstrual days by girls is pronounced

Another phenomenon that can be observed, whether in schools or in institutions, is the closure of the bathrooms. Because they are in poor hygienic conditions, the phenomenon of keeping closed and the restriction in the use of the baths is thus noticed. This conflicts directly with the rights of the citizens and mainly children. We have similar survey results from Moldova, Macedonia, Serbia and Georgia, which can be summarised as follows:

Key priority issues for the national portfolio for Environment & Health

  • Improve sanitation – to address the inadequate sanitation conditions, mainly in rural, pre-urban areas and in public buildings such as schools also in urban areas. Address the poor hygienic-sanitary conditions in schools in rural, pre-urban and urban areas.
  • Improve water supply –  poor quality of drinking water mainly in rural areas but also in urban areas.
  • Increase involvement of women and youth – in local government and decision-making
  • Reduce negative impacts on women – ensure pre-school care for children from 3 to 5 years old and 6-15 years old to reduce care burden on women. Organise an awareness campaign to end violence against women.

Other resources

The English version of the French National Environment and Health Plan is available online.