Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of children and women.

Children drinking water from a UNICEF water pump.
UNICEF PNG/2018/Chambers

The challenge

While Papua New Guinea (PNG) has made progress in improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities, there is still much work to be done. PNG’s estimated 8.5 million people are amongst those with the least access to safe water supply in the world. The Government’s WASH Policy 2015 - 2030 indicates that 89 per cent of people in urban areas and 33 percent in rural areas have access to safe water while 57 percent of urban dwellers and only 13 percent of the rural population have access to basic sanitation.

Water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, are among the principle causes of deaths in children under five years. PNG ranks currently at the bottom of all Pacific countries for all WASH related health statistics, with over 6,000 diarrheal deaths per year. In 2009 cholera re-emerged in PNG after 50 years. Over 60 per cent of the population use unimproved water supplies and less than 20 per cent use improved sanitation facilities, leading to widespread open defecation in rural communities.

A child washing hands.
UNICEF PNG/2018/Cherry
A child washing hands.

Most schools also do not have access to piped water systems. Most depend on rainwater to meet the drinking and hygiene needs of students. Some schools are forced to close for a few days when there is extreme shortage of water. According to the WaSH in Schools (WinS) Policy 2018-2023, 51 percent of schools in the country have access to water while only 28 percent have access to sanitation.

Adolescent girls in school suffer the most.  Only 8 percent of schools practice Menstrual Hygiene Management and only 10 percent of schools promote handwashing with soap. Many schools report absenteeism among adolescent girls, due to a lack of clean, private changing rooms without access to soap, water and sanitary pads. Some stay away from school for few days. This hampers girls’ learning - they miss classes and they attend classes with reduced self-esteem and dignity.

Our support

UNICEF PNG works with the Government to support WASH in schools by providing water tanks, toilet and handwashing facilities and promoting menstrual hygiene management so that all children, especially girls, attend classes regularly and stay in school.

Villagers in Komea Village, Nipa, Southern Highlands Province still get their water from a stream in the mountains.
UNICEF PNG/2018/Mepham
Villagers in Komea Village, Nipa, Southern Highlands Province still get their water from a stream in the mountains.

About the EU-UNICEF WASH Project

The 3-year E 21.3 million EU-UNICEF water and sanitation project in Papua New Guinea is expected to benefit 160, 000 people, including 40, 000 children from 200 schools, 36 health centers and 800 neighboring communities in four Papua New Guinea districts. These include Hagen Central in Western Highlands Province, Goroka in Eastern Highlands, Naweab in Marobe and Bougainville Central in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

The project, intended to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 - Access to clean water and sanitation - will support the Papua New Guinea WaSH Policy 2015-2030 implementation, including contributing to the strengthening of the WaSH Institutional frameworks.

The support is based on the European Union’s recognition that access to clean water and basic sanitation increases the vulnerability of the population to several diseases and is a major obstacle to social economic development.