COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea - Handwashing and good hygiene still key in fighting the serious threat of a mass outbreak

2 min read
Handwashing education in PNG
Image: WaterAid

You can read more about our COVID-19 work in Papua New Guinea here

Scott Morrison yesterday announced Australian Government support in response to the worsening COVID-19 situation in Papua New Guinea (PNG). WaterAid applauds the Australian Government’s commitment and continued support to our close friend and neighbour. Given PNG’s fragile health systems and with a large-scale distribution of vaccines some time away, safe and reliable water supply and handwashing with soap is still the first line of defence against the spread of COVID-19. With support from the Australian Government, WaterAid scaled up our water, sanitation and hygiene work in PNG, focusing on COVID-19 preventative measures, provision of water supply in communities and schools and national hygiene promotion, including handwashing with soap.

WaterAid Papua New Guinea’s Director of Programs Navara Kiene said:

“The Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak here in Papua New Guinea is a welcome one, however, the situation continues to be very real and very serious, with a largescale outbreak looming. Our team and partners are continuing our work in a COVID safe way to ensure we can reach people with hygiene and handwashing education and facilities as they are the first line of defence against the spread of infectious disease and will remain so before, during and after the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.”

Rosie Wheen, Chief Executive, WaterAid Australia, said:

“The worsening COVID-19 outbreak in Papua New Guinea is extremely worrying. This year we have seen handwashing thrown into the spotlight as one of the key ways to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, billions of people worldwide can’t do this, as they simply do not have access to soap or water. That’s why we will continue our vital work in Papua New Guinea and globally in scaling up our handwashing and hygiene projects to help slow the spread and protect people from COVID-19.”

Fast facts on handwashing

  • In PNG, only 43% of the population have access to safe drinking water less than a 30-minute return trip from the household
  • Only 28% of households in rural PNG have a handwashing facility with soap and water within their households.
  • Only 19% of households in rural PNG have a safe and hygienic toilet.
  • 1 in 3 primary schools worldwide do not have handwashing facilities.
  • Globally, around 310,000 children die each year from diarrheal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s over 800 children each day, or one child every two minutes.
  • 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses.
  • Handwashing with soap reduces the risk of diarrheal diseases by up to 47%.
  • Lack of access to sanitation and poor hygiene contribute to approximately 88% of childhood deaths caused by diarrheal diseases