United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Emergency response for the provision of mobile medical waste treatment equipment, medical equipment and personal protective equipment to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in China

United Nation Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) (
United Nations / Multilateral body

    In close collaboration with the Foreign Environmental Cooperation Centre of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China, UNIDO has actively supported China to respond to and prevent the spread of COVID-19. In particular, the emergency project provided fundamental equipment needed by medical health practitioners (at a time when this was hardly available on international markets) and provided the necessary training to medical waste treatment operators. The project was a good practice of concerted actions between the national ministries, hospitals, UNIDO and the donor, which led to project approval and installation of emergency equipment, in less than 1 month from the initial request.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    On 30 January 2020, the WHO Director-General announced the outbreak of COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Wuhan was the worst affected region, calling urgently for assistance due to severe deficiencies in personal hygiene protection and medical waste disposal capacity. On 14 February, the FECO/MEE sent a request to UNIDO on emergency assistance to help increase the medical waste disposal capacity in epidemic areas. The “Emergency Response Assistance to the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China” project was approved shortly after. Detailed activities: (1.1) the procurement of PPE from outside of China and transfer to China; (1.2) the procurement/rent of equipment to treat medical waste in an emergency hospital; (2.1) the development of guides/books explaining best practices in medical waste treatment, specifically for the target group; (Target group: (a) staff handling medical waste in hospitals and (b) staff in waste disposal centre) (2.2) the development of training materials, including an online course, for the target group; (2.3) the conduction of training on ESM of medical waste; (2.4) the preparation of a video on ESM of medical waste, aiming at the target group in remote areas. (2.5) an ECMO machine and related training were provided. In the first week of March, emergency mobile autoclave equipment was in place, and training was provided for operators. The Chinese contractor spent only 10 days completing the equipment production process from design, procurement, assembly to workshop debugging. The project had a total cost of around USD 1,200,000, and the donor is the Ministry of Commerce of China. It was rapidly mobilized through the Industrial Development Fund at UNIDO, and was among the quickest approved project in the UN system.


    1.1: 3,997 Protective bodywear were procured, delivered and provided to health workers at times they were not available in the national market. 1.2: Medical waste treatment equipment was procured and put into use in Wuhan. After the 31 days lockdown, 690 barrels (240 l/barrel) and 230 batches of epidemic medical waste with a total weight of about 21 tons were disposed; no one was infected during the operations; no generation and emission of secondary pollutants. 2.1: Two training guides on ESM of medical waste were prepared, and the Chinese experience was shared across countries. 2.2, 2.3, 2.4: Web-based training on ESM of medical waste were prepared and made available to practitioners. Several hundred people attended the online training during the project’s duration. 2.5 One ECMO equipment was procured in Europe and installed in a hospital in Hubei. The machine helped save the lives of hospitalized patients.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The project effectively alleviated the shortage of medical equipment and supported the environmentally sound treatment of medical waste. The project success was facilitated by speedy implementation and multiple stakeholders’ activities support. Project partners worked together to fight a common threat. Additionally, the project cultivated country ownership and aligned with China’s priorities. The project was efficient in that the vast majority of the resources targeted capacity building and the procurement of equipment through UNIDO’s competitive procurement process. However, the share of resources for project management was very limited.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The project implementation experience had significant referential value for all countries in their fight against pandemic. For example, the current response assistance project to COVID-19 in Iran, which was carried out in partnership with CIDCA, has successfully drawn lessons from the Emergency Response Assistance Project to COVID-19 in China. The project experience and outcomes would be summarized to promote the replication of achievements. Practitioners’ training on sound management of medical waste can assist the global fight against COVID-19 and reduce the spread of other diseases and nosocomial infections. Notably, the successful use of non-incineration technology, which was not common in China nor several other developing countries, was demonstrated and can be replicated. In this regard, the project also developed a study on medical waste disposal using cement kilns around the world, focusing on Iran, which will inform the further implementation of the above project.

    Other sources of information

    1) Training video for medical waste operators: Unite and Cooperate to Fight against COVID-19 and Do a Good Job in Emergency Management of Medical Waste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMKxCgdZIvc Twitter: https://twitter.com/UNIDO/status/1288848131451478017 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UNIDO.HQ/posts/10158915832279658 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6694615316103790592 2) Training Guidance for the Management of Medical Waste during the COVID-19 Outbreak in China (PDF) https://www.unido.org/sites/default/files/files/2020-11/Training_Guidan… 3) 100 Q&A on the Standardized Management of Medical Waste for Medical Institutions in China: https://open.unido.org/api/documents/19501048/download/100%20Q&A%20on%2… 4) News: UNIDO to provide emergency assistance to China to help contain the outbreak of coronavirus: https://www.unido.org/news/unido-provide-emergency-assistance-china-hel…

    COVID-19 Impact

    The project was focused on reducing COVID-19 spread and mitigating its environmental impacts through medical waste management. To support a better building back after COVID-19, the project provides accessible guidance to the public on how to safely dispose of medical waste in an environmentally safe manner while skilling workers and create new jobs in waste management. The post-crisis recovery can be an opportunity to prioritize climate resilience and environmental standards, including medical waste management, in order to be more prepared in case of a new pandemic. The actions taken to minimize possible COVID infections, as well as the demonstration of non-incineration technologies in an emergency context, will help China and the humanity as a whole in fighting possible future pandemics.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    17 February 2020 (start date)
    17 February 2021 (date of completion)
    United Nation Industrial Development Organization
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    Other beneficiaries

    Beneficiaries: health workers, hospitalized COVID patients, Chinese population Other countries have been able to benefit from the experience and the training material. Key stakeholders: Main partner agency: FECO Implementing agency: MEE, beneficiary hospitals, medical waste operators, UNIDO Building upon this successful project, China further supported the Republic of Iran to improve contaminated medical waste treatment through a new UNIDO project.

    More information
    Contact Information

    Yunrui, Emergency Response Assistance to the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China