Inclusive Climate-Resilient WASH in the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea

Water for Women partners with Plan International and Live and Learn Environmental Education to deliver Inclusive Climate-Resilient WASH in the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea to directly benefit an estimated 8,380* people living in New Ireland Province and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville by the end of 2024.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a monsoonal climate characterised by high temperatures and humidity throughout the year and is one of the wettest countries in the world with rainfall exceeding 2,500 mm annually. The climate is affected by trade winds and the movement of the South Pacific Convergence Zone and strongly influenced by the El Niño/La Niña conditions, which usually delay the start of the monsoon and bring drought conditions, especially in the southern areas of the main island.[1]

PNG is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, ranked 9th most at risk[2] to climate change and natural hazards by the 2021 World Risk Index. PNG is vulnerable to several hazards, including floods, droughts, earthquakes, volcanic activity, tsunamis, and sea level rise.[3]

By 2030, mean annual temperatures are projected to rise by 0.5-1.1°C, creating and extending risks to human health, ecosystems and agricultural and fisheries productivity, upon which some 80–85% of the population relies for subsistence and livelihoods.[4] Average rainfall is projected to increase under almost all climate change models, and extreme rainfall events are forecast to increase in frequency, exacerbating the risk of flooding that already affects some 25,000 people per year across PNG.

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.

The seas around PNG are projected to rise between 8-17cm by 2030 (above the global average rate), increasing the potential impact of storm surges and coastal flooding. Almost one-third of the population lives within 10km of the coastline and 8% (over 700,000 people) within 1km.[5]

While extreme weather events are projected to be less frequent in the future, they are expected to become more intense, with higher maximum wind speeds and peak precipitation rates causing higher storm surges, damage to critical infrastructure and crops, and increased salinization of soils and shallow freshwater lenses.

PNG is ranked 156 out of 182 countries for vulnerability and readiness to successfully adapt to climate change,[6] and is one of only 10 countries globally where 20%* of the population has access to just a basic standard of sanitation.[7]

An overhead shot of a coastal village in rural Papua New Guinea

A bird's eye view of Namatanai Ward 12 in New Ireland Province, one of the communities working with Plan International 

Climate-related risks to water, sanitation and hygiene


The majority of PNG’s more than nine million people live in rural areas, some of which are extremely remote and difficult to access. Significant disparities in access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) exist between urban and rural areas.[8] Climate change intensifies inequalities and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in communities, including women and girls, people with disabilities[9] and from minority and marginalised groups.

Nationally, 44% of the population has only basic access to water.[10] Increasing dry periods, drought and saltwater intrusion can impact the availability and quality of water for consumption and WASH needs.

Most of the population relies on surface water sources,[11] which are vulnerable to pollution and contamination during flooding and other weather and climate-related disasters.

Approximately 76% of the population uses unimproved sanitation or practices open defecation.[12] Unsafe sanitation poses serious health risks to communities and environments, which are further amplified by severe weather events.


In New Ireland Province, more than 30% of the population relies on unprotected sources of drinking water (mainly surface water and unprotected wells) and an estimated 80% of the rural population relies on unimproved sanitation, with open defecation common.

In the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB), Regional WASH planning exercises found that 75% of rural households have access to improved water supplies (rainwater or piped systems), but only 12% of people have access to improved sanitation. Most healthcare facilities (90%) have at least basic level water supplies, but only 10% have basic level or better sanitation services. Similarly, almost 80% of schools have at least basic water access, but only 20% have improved sanitation facilities.


 Papua New Guinea map


Inclusive Climate-Resilient WASH in the Islands Region of PNG is being delivered to improve the health, gender equality and well-being of 8,380* people living in New Ireland Province and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville through climate-resilient WASH.

Building on Plan International’s Water for Women project, Resilient WASH in the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea, completed in 2022, from 2023 to 2024 this project will refine and extend existing climate-resilient and inclusive WASH approaches in schools, healthcare facilities and communities, continue to support subnational and local-level WASH coordination, monitoring and planning systems, and strengthen knowledge and learning for wider and long-term benefit.


“Separate gender discussion/awareness about menstrual hygiene can help build confidence in female students and also for male students to understand the needs of females”.

Female schoolteacher, Northern Region ARoB 


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

  • Increased understanding of climate risks to WASH among WASH oversight and coordination mechanisms in New Ireland Province and ARoB, informing subnational and local WASH and climate change plans
  • Increased subnational government capacity to monitor climate risks to resilient WASH
  • Strengthened WASH sector financial systems, including understanding of climate change funding mechanisms
  • Increased access to climate-resilient inclusive WASH for 8,475 students in 30 schools, 55,000 users of 17 healthcare facilities and 8,380 people in 18 communities in the target areas
  • More gender equitable, inclusive and climate-risk informed WASH workloads and decision-making in 10 communities
  • Increased capacity among local technicians for the supply and installation of climate-resilient inclusive WASH infrastructure
  • Increased women's economic empowerment through support to women-led climate change-related WASH enterprises
  • Improved knowledge and practice in climate-resilient WASH among governments and civil society organisations in PNG and beyond.
A group of school students in green and yellow uniforms sit at a long table outdoors in a rural community primary school in Papua New Guinea

Students from a primary school in rural New Ireland Province where Plan International is working with the community. View photo updates from all of our Papua New Guinea projects

An orange graphic with the words 'latest from project'
Thumbnail of PNG country summary cover

This project is an extension of Resilient WASH in the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea delivered from 2018 - 2022.

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“Water is not available all year round as there are months where we run out of rainwater. Creeks are not always safe to drink and they are located far from the village.”

Male community member, Northern Region ARoB


WASH-related climate challenges for this project


  • Lack of improved sanitation and the common practice of open defecation pose serious threats to community health and well-being, further exacerbated during severe weather events and climate-related crises.
  • The majority of improved water supplies in rural areas are point sources such as wells, boreholes and rainwater tanks, rather than piped systems, meaning most communities rely on rainwater for their water supplies; changing rainfall patterns and weather conditions impact on availability and access to water.
  • Surface water sources are also vulnerable to pollution and contamination from human waste during severe weather events and climate-related crises such as flooding.
  • Shallow groundwater supplies are increasingly at risk from saltwater intrusion due to sea level rise and coastal erosion.
  • WASH infrastructure is exposed to damage, dysfunction and destruction in extreme weather events and disasters, such as flooding, tropical storms and landslides.
  • Environmental impacts from agriculture and forestry exacerbate the risks to already limited access to improved WASH services, including depletion and contamination of groundwater reserves.
  • National, subnational and local-level government lack capacity and resources to support community-level adaptation efforts in the face of climate-related WASH risks.


All people living in PNG are being affected by climate hazards. Increasingly, severe weather events like landslides, seawater inundation and extended periods of dry weather are affecting people in rural and urban settings by threatening water supply and sanitation systems. In ARoB and New Ireland Province climate hazards are a reality.



Inclusive Climate-Resilient WASH in the Islands Region of PNG aims to reach the following beneficiaries in Middle and South Fly by the end of 2024:

Direct beneficiaries: 8,380*

  • women and girls: 4,173 
  • men and boys: 3,761 
  • people with a disability: 446

Indirect beneficiaries: 46,365*



Water for Women logo
Plan International Logo
Live & learn logo
Aus-PNG Partnership logo

The Australia's development assistance program is investing in Papua New Guinea to achieve these outcomes. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with Plan International, Live and Learn Environmental Education and partners in New Ireland Province and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

 Feature photo: Plan International / Ishmael Palipal


*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] World bank Group, Climate Risk Country Profile: Papua New Guinea, Climate Knowledge Portal, The World Bank Group, 2021. 

[2] Australian Government, Australia's Commitment to strengthening climate and disaster resilience in the Pacific, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (website), n.d., accessed May 2023. 

[3] World Bank Group, Papua New Guinea - Vulnerability, Climate Change Knowledge Portal, The World Bank Group (website), 2021, accessed May 2023.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[11] Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, Climate risk and adaptation country profile: Papua New Guinea, GFDRR, 2011.

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

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