Strongim WASH Kominiti Projek

Water for Women partners with WaterAid to deliver Strongim WASH Kominiti Projek – Strengthening WASH for Community Project to directly benefit an estimated 15,178* people living in Wewak district, East Sepik Province, with climate-resilient and inclusive WASH services and systems.


Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, ranked 9th most at risk to climate change and natural hazards by the 2021 World Risk Index. PNG is ranked 156 out of 182 countries for vulnerability and readiness to successfully adapt to climate change.[1]

Already high daily temperatures are projected to rise, average rainfall to increase in most areas and extreme rain events to be more frequent; in combination with sea level rise, these will exacerbate flooding.

According to a World Bank Hotspot study,[2] PNG also ranks first for landslide hazard due to its steep mountain ranges, high seismicity and high annual rainfall.

Around 80% of the country’s more than 9 million population live in rural and remote communities and 15% in the Islands region.[3] Almost one-third of the population live within 10km of the coastline, with 8% (over 700,000 people) living within 1km.[4] Some 80-85% directly derive their livelihood from the water and land, through fishing, agriculture and associated sectors.[5]

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, in PNG there have been 30 climate, hydrological and meteorological disasters with more than 3 million people affected and 400 deaths attributed to these.[6]

Extreme weather events and climate-related natural disasters disproportionately impact women, people living with disabilities[7] and from minority and marginalised groups. Despite women being socially prescribed WASH-related roles at home and in communities (water collection duties, food preparation and family care, including caring for those with disabilities), evidence shows that women are often excluded from WASH decision-making and not regarded as leaders, reducing agency and resilience to adequately respond to climate-related events.

A birds eye view of Wewak in East Sepik, Papua New Guinea

A bird's eye view of Wewak, East Sepik, Papua New Guinea

Climate-related risks to water, sanitation and hygiene


The majority of PNG’s people live in rural areas, some of which are extremely remote and difficult to access. Significant disparities in WASH access exist between urban and rural areas.[8] Climate change intensifies inequalities.

PNG is one of only 10 countries globally where 20%* of the population has access to just a basic standard of sanitation.[9]

According to the UN’s Joint Monitoring Program 2023 update,[10] 44% of the population has only basic water access. Extreme weather events like floods threaten already vulnerable WASH infrastructure, services and access.

According to the Joint Monitoring Program 2023 update, approximately 76% of the population uses unimproved sanitation or practices open defecation. Climate-related crises exacerbate the risk of contamination of water and food sources from human waste and the spread of waterborne diseases, such as cholera.


In Wewak District, the diverse coastal and inland landscapes experience unique climate and water security threats, including increased rainfall intensity resulting in flash flooding, coastal flooding and storm surge, increased groundwater salinity, drought, increased erosion, landslides and sea level rise.

Future rainfall projections for Wewak indicate a 30% increase in rainfall intensity, equating to 100-200mm on a wet day[11] and flooding is expected to intensify. The coast of Boram Bay is exposed to coastal flooding and the impacted flood zone comprises economically important areas of Wewak town, including a portion of Boram Airport and the Laura Martin Market, where many women of East Sepik Province derive their incomes.

In rural areas of the district, inland and coastal flooding from the Sepik River and its tributaries is a significant risk where communities are less prepared, more remote and vulnerable to flash flooding causing displacement, transport and supply chain breakdowns. These threats are amplified by socioeconomic barriers including low incomes, limited rural connectivity, weak infrastructure, land disputes, poor governance and conflict over water resources.

Regional map of Papua New Guinea



"More information, training and awareness on Climate Resilient WASH and Community Based Water Resource Management in Wewak District will assist us monitor, plan and deliver our projects, save our water sources, and other community developments... to collect climate-related data to avoid guess-work, rather evidence-based planning, investment and development." 

Martin Maingu, Wewak District Development Authority Administrator and Chairman of Wewak District WASH Coordination Body 



Strongim WASH Kominiti Projek is being delivered in Wewak District to improve inclusive WASH service delivery, with added focus on building climate resilience by addressing the threats climate change represents to strong WASH systems, services and livelihoods.

This project is drawing on and accelerating momentum from WaterAid’s Water for Women project, Implementing Inclusive WASH for the People of Wewak, completed in 2022, working with core partners in Wewak District and at national level, including the Wewak District Development Authority (DDA), East Sepik Provincial Health Authority (ESPHA), and rights holder groups, East Sepik Council of Women (ESCoW) and East Sepik Disabled Person’s Agency (ESDPA).

From 2023-2024 this project aims to deliver lasting impact through:

  • Fostering local level government and ESPHA ownership of climate-resilient inclusive WASH service delivery in Wewak, supported by the DWCB and DDA
  • Improvements to climate-resilient inclusive WASH service delivery in Wewak district
  • Supporting DDA, local level government and ESPHA action to reduce inequalities experienced by women and people with disabilities
  • Providing critical evidence to the national discourse, supporting the Department of National Planning and Monitoring WASH Program Management Unit to document strong approaches for climate-resilient WASH for replication across the country
  • Sharing the learnings and approaches from Wewak district with WASH sector actors to strengthen climate-resilient inclusive WASH in other parts of PNG.
A group of women in PNG sit in a circle on a hot day under shade, they are discussing the Wewak District WASH Plan at Walandoum, PNG

Community engagement on the Wewak District WASH Plan at Walandoum, Papua New Guinea. View more photo updates from Papua New Guinea.

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PNG Country summary cover thumbnail

This project is an extension of Inclusive WASH for the people of Wewak which was delivered from 2018 - 2022.

Learn more

Blue background with white writing that says "Innovation & Impact"

Towards Integration: practical lessons from applying an inclusive WASH and climate adaptation framework

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WASH-related climate challenges for this project

  • Climate change represents an existential challenge to both the resilience and sustainability of WASH services in Wewak District.
  • Flooding events are projected to increase, which threaten access to, and the quality of water for consumption and community WASH needs, and render sanitation systems vulnerable to damage and dysfunction, posing additional threats to community health and well-being.
  • Entrenched gender norms continue to limit women’s participation and leadership in WASH, despite socially prescribed roles in WASH at home and in communities; throughout Wewak District, only 10% of people nominated by community members as leaders and decision makers are women.
  • The scale of climate-related impacts in Wewak district and their impact on communities and vulnerable groups, including women, people with disabilities and people from sexual and gender minority groups is projected to increase, but communities have limited resilience to adapt and respond to the worst of the impacts.


"The WASH planning was very helpful for local government staff. It has helped us to know how to budget and plan.”

Joe Bernard, Wewak Rural Local Level Government Manager

A young man enjoys clean drinking water from a newly installed tap stand in his village on Kairiru Island, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (WaterAid / Dion Kombeng)



Strongim WASH Kominiti Projek aims to reach the following beneficiaries by the end of 2024:

Direct beneficiaries: 15,178*

  • women and girls: 6,986
  • men and boys: 8,192
  • people with a disability: 1,518

Indirect beneficiaries: 61,004*



Water for Women logo
Australia PNG Partnership
WaterAid logo
Wewak District Development Authority
East Sepik Disabled Peoples Agency
East Sepik Provincial Health Authority
East Sepik Provincial Authority
East Sepik Council of Women
International Water Management Institute
National Weather Service
Water PNG

The Australian development assistance program is investing in Papua New Guinea to achieve these outcomes. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with WaterAid and partners ESDPA, ESCOW, Wewak District Water Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Body, Wewak District Council of Women, East Sepik Provincial Health Authority (ESPHA), Wewak District Development Authority, Department of National Planning and Monitoring – WASH PMU, PNG National Weather Service in Wewak District.

Feature photo: Grade 7 students and their teacher at a primary school in Wewak wash their hands as part of Global Handwashing Day celebrations, at WASH facilities constructed by WaterAid (WaterAid PNG / Paula Kari)

*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.

[1] Sanitation and Water for All, Country Overview - Papua New Guinea, SWA, February 2022.

[2] World Bank, Papua New Guinea - Vulnerability, Climate Change Knowledge Portal (website), n.d., accessed May 2023.

[3] National Statistical Office of Papua New Guinea, Population, NSO (website), n.d., accessed May 2023.

[4] Pacific Community, Mapping (Coastal), Statistics for Development Division (website), n.d., accessed May 2023.    

[5] Australian Government, Papua New Guinea country brief, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (website), n.d., accessed May 2023.

[6] Sanitation and Water for All, Country Overview - Papua New Guinea.

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

[8] Approximately 87% of the urban population has access to an improved water source, compared to 49% in rural areas; around 49% or the urban population has at least basic sanitation, compared to only 15% in rural areas: Joint Monitoring Program 2023 update.

[9] WHO/UNICEF, Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2022: Special focus on gender, WHO/UNICEF JMP, July 2023.

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