Taking WASH to hard-to-reach schools in Papua New Guinea
Overcoming challenges to provide clean water to schools
05 July 2023, Port Moresby – Traveling and transporting things in hard-to-reach areas in Papua New Guinea can sometimes be an overwhelming challenge due to the island, mountainous and forested nature of the country along with limited road network.
This makes bringing water, sanitation, and hygiene services to schools in these areas difficult and expensive. As a result, access to safe drinking water as well as handwashing and toilets facilities is often not possible for most school children in many remote parts of the country.
Construction items such as water tanks, cement bags, sinks or iron bars in some remote places must be carried on foot through difficult terrain for hours or by dingy to remote island schools.
Amusuk Primary School in Aitape, Sandaun Province is one such school. Until quite recently, its 140 students had no access to safe drinking water or handwashing facilities due to its remote location. The only water source was a nearby creek with murky unsafe water that students were forced to drink from and wash their hands.
Thanks to funding from the Australian Government to UNICEF through the Education in Emergency Response and Recovery Plan (EERP), the school, along with 500 others in PNG, now has a water tank for drinking water and a handwashing station for students’ use.
“Bringing WASH services to schools in remote PNG regions like Aitape-Lumi district in Sandaun Province, is laden with deep challenges,” said Delma Morofa of CARE PNG, one of UNICEF’s implementing partners for the EERP project.
“Sometime we have to drive for four or five hours through difficult terrain, including crossing rivers and then walking for another four or five hours to reach the school. We also had to fly in the artisans from another province as there are no skilled workers in the villages.”
“Without the support of community members, students and teachers who carried the materials up to the school several kilometers from where truck could not continue, it would have been impossible for us to get them here for the facilities to be constructed,” said Chris Anowan, Head Teacher of Amusuk Primary School.
The project has also supported the school to start a vibrant Hygiene Club that is promoting health behaviors among the students, thanks to the readily available safe water and the newly installed handwashing stations.
Students are now able to learn and practice healthy behaviors such as frequent handwashing, drinking water regularly, and keeping their toilets and classrooms clean.
“We are encouraging the students to learn healthy personal and environmental hygiene to stay healthy and to take the knowledge back to their families so that it can take root in their communities as well,” said Anowan.
Thanks to this gift of safe water, the students are now happier and learning in a healthier environment despite the remote location of their school where accessibility remains one of the school’s biggest challenges.