1.    Introduction

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) is the United Nations agency for human settlements and sustainable urban development. It is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. Leading efforts to advance UN system-wide coherence for sustainable urbanisation, UN-Habitat is playing a key role implementing the Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015 as well as the New Urban Agenda (NUA) adopted in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016. UN-Habitat also plays a key role in SDG6 on water, amongst others as custodian agency for indicator 6.3.1 under Target 6.3 on water and wastewater quality management. 

The Urban Basic Services Section is responsible for supporting equitable access to urban basic services, including the organization’s work on Water, Sanitation and Waste Management amongst others. The Section provides secretariat for the Global Water Operators Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), an international network created to support water operators through Water Operator’s Partnerships (WOPs), peer support exchanges between operators, on a not-for-profit basis, with the objective of strengthening their capacity, enhancing their performance and enabling them to provide a better service to more people.

The current COVID-19 Pandemic has demonstrated the critical importance of providing water and sanitation and has shed new light on the role of service providers in management and monitoring of health outcomes. Many utilities are now involved in tracing of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, to determine and track viral loads in urban populations. Studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 is shed in faeces and hence collected in the sewerage systems in cities, where such systems exist. Several research groups are currently assessing the sensitivity and application of SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance across different environmental conditions.

Whereas contaminated water is an unlikely route of infection, wastewater monitoring can offer a cost-effective supplement to clinical testing and an ‘early warning’ mechanism to identify hotspots. This can be applied to non-sewered and informal settlings, however further assessments and innovations are required, including demonstrations on how SARS-CoV-2 monitoring can be applied and integrated in community and city level surveillance schemes, using locally adapted and replicable tools, capacity development and awareness-raising mechanisms.

Local Innovators Call

UN-Habitat is looking for institutional partners that would like to collaborate in the piloting and showcasing of innovative wastewater-based SARS-CoV-2 monitoring initiatives. We are looking for locally based institutions that are already innovating with such technology who would like to participate in a partnership on this topic, convened by UN-Habitat. Selected partners would benefit from modest co-financing (US$10-20,000) for development and testing and would participate in joint learning activities, advocacy and showcasing of results.

This call is premised on the assumption that the uptake of wastewater-based SARS-CoV-2 monitoring in cities requires close cooperation between different stakeholders from industry, local authorities, formal and informal water and sanitation service providers, civil society and research and academic institutions.

The purpose of this call is to boost and provide good examples of such collaboration in different structural and operational environments, focusing on vulnerable populations and developing country contexts. UN-Habitat is issuing this call with a view to strengthen collaboration with and between these city partnerships, to share and promote innovation and the uptake of wastewater-based SARS-CoV-2 monitoring.

Specifically, UN-Habitat plans to support demonstration and development of scalable, locally based, wastewater-based SARS-CoV-2 monitoring initiatives, focusing both on off-grid wastewater and sanitation systems, incl. fecal sludge treatment plants. Applicants may wish to include innovations into the following areas:

  • sampling and analytical methods (particularly for settings with low-sewerage coverage)
  • modelling and interpretation of data
  • data use for decision-making, complementing public health surveillance at the city level
  • engaging health surveillance partners and community groups

Applicants must also demonstrate complementarity with other ongoing essential interventions to meet WASH needs of urban populations, particularly vulnerable groups. 

Who can participate

UN-Habitat invites responses from civil society and community organizations, research institutions and public entities (including local authorities and water and sanitation operators) working with a focus on vulnerable populations in urban areas. Entities, if not water and sanitation operators, must demonstrate close collaboration with and support to such institutions mandated to provide wastewater services to the communities in which the activity takes place. Entities must be able to demonstrate registration under the applicable national legal framework.

Expressions of Interest should contain but need not be limited to the following:

    • Overall background of the institution/s in the area of water and wastewater management;
    • A description of the partnership between the different organizations involved
    • A short conceptual proposal on how the organisation/consortium plans to develop wastewater-based SARS-CoV-2 monitoring within their areas, that should include:
      • Expected outcomes and deliverables
      • Area covered / population reached
      • Linkages between the proposed intervention and overall health/environmental management in the project city
      • Timeline and work plan
    • The support/ contribution the organization is willing to make including, cash and in kind; (contribution in terms of staff time, office space and equipment and others. Support in-kind should be expressed in monetary terms)
    • Governance and organizational structure; experience and qualifications of key professional staff and infrastructure facilities of the organization;
    • Certified true copy of original Audited Financial Statement for the last two years; and
    • Annual report for the last two years.

Selection criteria

  • The implementing institutions should be registered and active in the country in which the vehicle/s will implemented and should show previous experience in the area of water and wastewater quality management and monitoring with a focus on public health outcomes (30%).
  • The financial contribution that the implementing organisation is willing to make (20%)
  • In kind contribution by the implementing organisations e.g staff time, office and research facilities (20%)
  • Overall quality and innovation demonstrated in the proposal (30%)

3.    Overall Timeframe

The work outlined in this EOI should commence in October 2020 and be completed by 31 August 2021.

4.    Submission Requirements and Guidelines

Expression of Interest must be delivered in electronic format no later than 11 September 2020 to copying and

5.    Contact Information

Lars Stordal

c/o Global Water Operators’ Partnerships’ Alliance (GWOPA)
Urban Basic Services Section, Urban Practices Branch, UN-Habitat
UN Campus Bonn, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1
53113 Bonn, Germany

6.    Other

Please note that this EOI notice does not constitute a solicitation. UN-Habitat reserves the right to change or cancel this requirement at any time in the Expressions of Interest/or solicitation process.