Wewak District launches new “ambitious” plan to bring clean water, sanitation and good hygiene to its communities

3 min read
Locals and government officials testing water to gather data

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are basic human rights and are critically important to health, education and wellbeing. Lack of access to clean drinking water, a decent toilet and poor hygiene practices are continuing to directly contribute to the transmission of diseases including diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery and typhoid.

WASH related diseases like these have long-term impacts beyond the sickness themselves; they lead to increased death rates, reduction in educational attainment and workplace participation. The ripple effect of these can result in significant economic impact, for example, recent studies have shown a lack of clean water limits economic growth by one-third.

In Papua New Guinea, over 63% of the population lacks access to a basic water supply, and a staggering 81% of the population lack access to a basic hygienic toilet. In the rural communities of Wewak District, only 37% of the communities have access to safe water and 41% of rural households practise open defecation, meaning they do not have access to a decent toilet and instead are forced to defecate in the open. The urban area of Wewak is seeing significant population growth, but urban water and sanitation infrastructure are unable to keep pace, resulting in water shortages and unsanitary conditions for households, schools and health care facilities.

School water tank
Photo: Saskia van Zanen/WaterAid

Inadequate access to WASH is also disproportionately affecting women and girls. In addition to meeting women’s needs around menstrual and sexual and reproductive health, WASH is also essential for women’s social and economic development and contributing to gender equality.

To improve WASH services for the people of Wewak, and drive improved health and economic outcomes, the Wewak District Development Authority has developed a five-year plan outlining WASH development priorities for the five rural and one urban Local Level Governments (LLGs) in the District.

Chief Executive and District Administrator of Wewak District Development Authority Mr Martin Maingu said the plan was ambitious, but there was no time to waste:

“We are committed to accelerating WASH improvement for the health and wellbeing for both the rural and urban people of Wewak. Our united efforts will support communities to become open-defecation-free (ODF) and we will aim to become Papua New Guinea’s first ODF District. This is an ambitious goal – but one that is critical for the development of the district.”

The five-year plan provides the district with a roadmap for investing in WASH from all levels of government, NGOs, politicians and communities. The plan is the result of a detailed baseline assessment of WASH conditions throughout the District, a study on gender equality and social inclusion, and several workshops to review data and develop plans. Each LLG has identified their own priorities for the next five years.

"I urge all parties to work together to support this plan- together we are stronger,” concluded Mr Maingu.