Supporting community climate-resilient WASH programming in Papua New Guinea

Women Ex-Service community members sit together in an outdoor grassed area facing a woman who is presenting with poster paper attached to the side of a white four-wheel drive vehicle. They are participating in a community engagement, consultation and discussion session on impacts of climate change in Ex–Service, Wewak District, Papua New Guinea.

Community members participate in a community engagement, consultation and discussion session on the impacts of climate change in Ex–Service, Wewak District (WaterAid PNG / Joyce Maragas)  

In an effort to address the pressing need for climate-adaptive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs in Papua New Guinea (PNG), WaterAid and Hydrology and Risk Consulting (HARC), an Australian engineering consultancy firm, recently collaborated on a responsive project in Wewak District — Towards Integration: Practical Lessons from Applying an Inclusive WASH and Climate Adaptation Framework. The project aimed to address a lack of evidence and practical approaches for climate-resilient WASH programming, which is crucial for vulnerable communities now confronting the impacts of climate change.

The project, supported by the Australian Government through a Water for Women Innovation and Impact (I&I) grant, has developed, tested and now applied an inclusive WASH and Climate Adaptation Framework for Wewak District, resulting in significant findings and transferable lessons for building resilience and integration in WASH initiatives.

Through the project's implementation, several key outcomes and achievements have been realised. The project team conducted a climate resilience building block assessment, which served as the primary framework for piloting. This assessment, combined with insights gained from previous WaterAid projects and WASH sector evidence, provided a solid foundation for strengthening climate-resilient WASH responses in Wewak.

Recognising the importance of accurate climate data to address information gaps, the project also established a partnership with the National Weather Service (NWS). This collaboration involved supporting the installation and operation of a digital weather station in Wewak, enhancing local weather data availability and enabling informed decision-making in response to climate-related challenges.

In addition to technical advancements, the project engaged with key stakeholders at various levels to ensure effective dissemination of findings and influence policy and practice. Induction workshops and meetings conducted with government officials and stakeholders in Wewak District, including the District WASH Coordinating Body (DWCB), have increased awareness and fostered collaboration on climate-resilient WASH programming.

To test the framework's applicability, the project team piloted the Climate Change Response to WASH Tool (CCRWT) in selected communities, namely Sowom, Ex-Service and Walandoum. The CCRWT supports community engagement and helps to facilitate discussions about climate change impacts, hazards and vulnerabilities. The insights gained from this process have informed better water resource management planning and reinforced the importance of community involvement in building climate resilience. The project team recommends the CCRWT be used for community entry engagements at the start of projects to encourage meaningful participation and achieve more community-based, inclusive WASH programs.

“I have learnt through the sessions that defecating out in the open is not safe. When it rains, the excreta that lies out in the open and bush, is washed off into the water sources or dug out holes that we usually use to collect drinking and cooking water... also making us to be sick with diarrhoea.”

- A young mother from Walandoum


A key outcome of this project is increased knowledge about climate change and its impacts on the environment and people, especially women, girls and persons with disabilities. Community members are now more aware of the water resources they have within the community that can be mobilised and utilised when disaster happens, as well as how power dynamics affect workloads and decision-making during climate extremes. Methods to minimise risks by taking small steps, such protecting their environment from destruction through gardening and other subsistence livelihood practices, were also shared.

“I found the sessions to be very useful. I can now clearly see the damage that can happen during wet and dry seasons and also prepare myself during those times.”

- A grandmother from Walandoum

An impact diagram on poster paper from one of the community engagement sessions with illustrations depicting climate events and lines hand drawn linking these with WASH impacts.

As a direct outcome of this project, a final framework for Inclusive WASH and Climate Adaptation is being adopted by the DWCB and serves as a practical guide for integrating climate resilience into water and sanitation interventions. It is also being incorporated into the revised 5-Year Wewak District WASH Plan, ensuring that future WASH activities are more sustainable, climate-resilient and align with Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) – clean water and sanitation for all.

Broader WASH sector contributions

The project's impact has extended beyond the immediate project sites, connecting with national climate actors including the Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority (CEPA) and the Climate Change Development Authority (CCDA). These collaborations have strengthened coordination and integration between WASH and climate initiatives at the national policy level, ensuring a comprehensive approach to climate-resilient WASH programming beyond this project.

Moreover, WaterAid has now shared the project's learnings and insights at prominent international conferences, including COP27, Asia International Water Week and the Irrigation Australia Conference, contributing to global knowledge exchange and fostering collaboration among stakeholders who are dedicated to addressing climate-resilient WASH programming.

WaterAid is also applying learnings from this project in their current Water for Women project in PNG, Strongim WASH Kominiti Projek.

Other learning and knowledge from the project:


Above right: An impact diagram presented to the community as part of the CCRWT to identify the risk, establish controls and measure the impact of climate change on community-based water resource management in Wewak District (WaterAid PNG / Joyce Maragas)


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