Papua New Guinea WASH Consortium

Water for Women partners with the PNG WASH Consortium, WASH Em i Bikpela Samting (WEBS) — comprising World Vision, WaterAid, Plan International, Live and Learn Environmental Education and local partners — to address the impacts of climate change on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems and build a strong enabling environment for climate-resilient inclusive services in Central, Morobe and New Ireland provinces, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB), and the National Capital District.


Papua New Guinea (PNG) is highly susceptible to climate hazards due to its high exposure and vulnerability, and low adaptive and coping capacities.[1]


Around 80% of the country’s more than 9 million population lives in rural and remote communities.[2] Almost one-third lives within 10km of a coastline — and more than 700,000 within 1km,[3] where they are at extreme risk from rising sea levels, projected to increase between 8-17cm by 2030.


PNG is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity, with higher maximum wind speeds and peak precipitation rates causing stronger storm surges and higher flooding.


PNG faces additional imminent and catastrophic risks from climate change, which pose threats to WASH, expose vulnerabilities and amplify inequities in communities. According to a World Bank Hotspot study, PNG ranks first for landslide hazard due to its steep mountain ranges, high seismicity and high annual rainfall.[4]


Along with sea level rise, temperatures are projected to increase between 0.5–1.1°C by 2030 (above global average rates), placing further pressure on already limited potable water supplies. Extreme rainfall is also expected to increase, triggering coastal erosion, storm surges and flooding, which lead to salination of groundwater, can damage WASH infrastructure, and pollute and contaminate unprotected water sources.


Weather-related problems account for 90% of those caused by climate change, with significant connections to the water cycle and overall availability of water. Since 2000, PNG has experienced 30 climate, hydrological and meteorological disasters, with more than 3 million people affected and 400 deaths attributed to these.[5]

A birds eye view of two students collecting water from a tank, we see green grass next to the tank and brown grass further away

Students from a primary school in Morobe Province collect water from a newly installed tank. Word Vision built four new toilets along with this 9,000 litre water tank to support the school, which struggles with WASH access during dry season (World Vision)


PNG is one of only 10 countries globally where 20% of the population (= or <) has access to just a basic standard of sanitation.[6] In communities, climate change is further affecting limited access to WASH, particularly in healthcare facilities and schools, where water shortages are common.


Climate change exacerbates inequities in communities, with those most vulnerable and least equipped to adapt the worst impacted, including women and children, people with a disability[7] and from marginalised and minority groups.


Climate-related risks to water, sanitation and hygiene

In PNG, 44% of the population has only basic access to water, with large disparities existing between urban and rural areas at approximately 87% and only 49% respectively.[8]

Climate change exacerbates inequities and places further pressure on the country’s water supplies.


A similar rural-urban divide exists for sanitation, with almost 49% of urban dwellers with at least basic level services, compared to 15% in the rural areas.  Lack of safely managed sanitation places precious water sources at risk of contamination from human waste. Climate-related events and crises, such as floods, tropical cyclones and landslides, exacerbate the risks of water source contamination.

Some 47% of schools in PNG have only basic water supplies,[9] only 10% promote handwashing with soap and only 8% practice menstrual hygiene management.[10] Evidence supports the importance of WASH in schools for health, education and equality outcomes. Climate-related impacts that reduce potable water supplies undermine the limited access to WASH in schools and communities in PNG.

“The newly endorsed WASH in HCF standards and guidelines will help improve access to clean water supply and decent toilets in healthcare facilities, which will lead to lower morbidity and mortality in healthcare facilities.”

Paulus Ripa, Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority Acting Chief Executive Officer


A map of PNG with regions of operation highlighted

In the project locations, climate-resilient water and WASH infrastructure is rare, with communities highly reliant on shallow hand dug wells, surface water and rainwater harvesting, rather than piped systems. Most have unimproved sanitation facilities or practice open defection.

During the monsoon (wet season), storms and high tides have led to coastal flooding in ARoB and New Ireland Province, among other areas, polluting water sources and damaging sanitation facilities.[11] High levels of open defecation and basic sanitation facilities that are not designed for flood conditions pose significant threats to unprotected water sources, which can quickly become polluted with debris and contaminated from human waste, further limiting community access to potable water.

In the dry season, severe and extended drought[12] has caused rainwater to run dry and depleted surface water supplies across most of PNG, making dependence on unsafe drinking water sources commonplace. In the project areas of Morobe Province and coastal areas of the National Capital District, a pronounced wet and dry season (December-March /June-September) is experienced, with communities receiving less than 2,000mm rainfall annually.[13]

Although the frequency and duration of drought is expected to decrease, rising temperatures have the potential to worsen the severity of droughts when they do occur, impacting both water supplies and food crops. Scientists predict an El Nino weather pattern in 2023, which brings the prospect of drought to PNG.[14]


The PNG WASH Consortium, WEBS, aims to improve health outcomes through climate-resilient, inclusive and equitable WASH across PNG.

Building on the successes and achievements of WEBS from November 2021 to June 2023, during the first phase of Water for Women, the consortium is leveraging partners’ collective experience, evidence, learning and strong relationships to strengthen the national and subnational enabling environment to support ongoing WASH delivery and improve climate-resilient inclusive WASH in schools, healthcare facilities (HCFs) and communities.


Systems strengthening is a key focus of the project. At the national systems level, the consortium is supporting the government’s response to the recent Joint Sector Review, and at the subnational level, building capacity to ensure the entire WASH system is strengthened, robust and sustainable beyond the life of the project. The consortium is also targeting direct WASH service users through the trailing of innovative and impactful community WASH interventions and approaches across PNG. Subsequent learnings will be fed into the government to inform policy and resourcing directions.


From 2023-2024, WEBS aims to deliver lasting impact through:

  • Improved national and subnational WASH investment planning, governance and coordination
  • Improved access to and use of climate-resilient and inclusive WASH in HCFs, schools and communities
  • Evidence and learning supporting national and subnational WASH sector actors’ to benefit from the Consortium’s project around inclusive, equitable and climate-resilient WASH.
A group of community members sit outside in a rural village in PNG
Community engagement in Papua New Guinea. View more photo updates from our projects in Papua New Guinea (World Vision PNG)

“The value of the PNG WASH Consortium is in its diversity of contexts and approaches. This diversity adds depth to the consortium's learnings, understandings and ways of working to improve WASH access and service delivery at the project level, whilst concerted efforts at the National level help to strengthen the enabling environment needed to improve WASH indicators in the country." 

Turea Wickham, PNG WASH Consortium Coordinator 

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A thumbnail of the cover of a PNG WEBS country summary with a picture and text

This project is an extension of the PNG WASH Consortium, which operated from November 2021 to June 2023. 

Learn more


WASH-related climate challenges for this project

  • Although several steps have been taken to address the impacts of climate change on communities, including national level sector reform and the development of guidance and approaches, weaknesses in PNG’s broader climate management and WASH systems remain, exacerbating WASH-related vulnerabilities and risks posed by climate change.
  • There is currently a lack of data, planning, technical skills, financing, leadership and coordination between sector actors to effectively address climate-related impacts on WASH.  
  • In the project locations, most rely on shallow hand dug wells, surface water and rainwater harvesting for their water supplies, and on unsafe sanitation, which leave people highly vulnerable to climate-related impacts, including water shortages during drought and contamination due to flooding.
  • WASH facilities are also highly susceptible to damage and destruction caused by extreme weather events and disasters, with those most vulnerable also the worst affected, including people with a disability and from minority and marginalised communities.
  • Entrenched gender norms continue to limit women’s participation and leadership in WASH, despite socially prescribed roles in WASH at home and in communities.


“I thank all donor partners, non-government organisations and WaSH players in implementing WASH approaches and behaviours across the country. Working together with the government and within government systems aligned to existing policies and national plans are essential to creating sustainable WaSH services for our communities and for our people.”

Mr Takale Tuna, WASH PMU Coordinator

A male teacher cuts material to sew into a reusable sanitary pad during a training session in Buka, ARoB (Plan International PNG / Ishmael Palipal)


The WEBS Consortium aims to reach the following beneficiaries by the end of 2024:

Direct beneficiaries: 47,615*

Indirect beneficiaries: 725,057*


WaterAid Logo
World Vision Logo
Plan International Logo
Live and Learn Logo

The Australian development assistance program is investing in PNG to achieve these outcomes. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with World Vision, WaterAid, Plan International, Live & Learn Environmental Education and other partners in Papua New Guinea.

*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress

Feature photo by World Vision PNG



[1] Sanitation and Water for All, Country Overview – Papua New Guinea, State of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, SWA, 15 February 2022.

[2] PNG National Statistical Office, 2011 Census Summary Figures, National Statistics Office (website), 2011.

[3] Pacific Community, Mapping (Coastal), SPC Statistics for Development Division (website), n.d., accessed June 2023.

[4] World Bank Group, Climate Change Overview: Papua New Guinea, World Bank Climate Change Knowledge Portal, 2021.

[7] Disability prevalence in PNG is 13.4 % according to the Australia Pacific Climate Partnership, Pacific Risk Profile – PNG, APCP, July 2021.

[8] WHO/UNICEF, Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2022: Special focus on gender.

[9] WHO/UNICEF, JMP WASH Data: Schools – Papua New Guinea (website), n.d., drinking water services in schools 2021, accessed July 2023.

[10] European Union, Interactive Country Fiches: Papua New Guinea - Water (EU website), n.d., accessed July 2023.

[11] R Davies, Papua New Guinea – Coastal floods affect thousands, FloodList, 15 December 2021.

[12] ReliefWeb, August 2022 Drought Update, PNG-NWS Climate and Special Services team, 15 August 2022.

[14] E Wasuka, El Nino set to cause drought in PNG and Vanuatu, ABC Pacific, 6 April 2023.


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