Implementing inclusive WASH for the people of Wewak, Papua New Guinea

Water for Women partners with WaterAid in delivering Inclusive WASH for Wewak, in the East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea.


Papua New Guinea is the largest and most populous Pacific Island nation, with a total population of over 8 million. Papua New Guinea also presents geographical challenges with a large majority of the population living in rural areas, some of which are extremely remote and difficult to access.

Approximately 85% of the population live in rural areas, where the main sources of drinking water are rainwater tanks, shallow hand-dug wells, springs, creeks and rivers.

Only 37% of the population have access to at least a basic drinking water supply.

Only 19% of the population has access to at least a basic level of sanitation, which includes the use of septic tanks and pit toilets.

48% of the rural population are still relying on surface water.

There is a widespread practice of open defecation.


Gender inequality is a major development challenge in PNG, with a range of traditional and cultural factors preventing women from realising their rights and sharing equally in the benefits of development. Further, while progress on addressing disability inclusion has been made, stigma against people with disabilities remains a significant barrier to universal WASH access.  Physical barriers also remain an issue, with WASH infrastructure in communities not being fully accessible.

Gender equality, social inclusion and reliable, sustainable WASH infrastructure are key priorities of Water for Women. 

“We know how important strong local systems are to delivering and sustaining WASH services. This funding will allow us to work with local government to strengthen the WASH sector, bringing inclusive and sustainable WASH to the people of Wewak District.”

- Mark Wolfsbauer, Program Director, WaterAid Papua New Guinea


Water for Women will be partnering with WaterAid to deliver Inclusive WASH for Wewak.

The project aims to benefit thousands of people in the Wewak District of East Sepik Province in PNG.  Wewak District is located within the northern ranges region of the north coast of PNG and is one of six districts within the East Sepik Province.  Inclusive WASH for Wewak District supports improvements in government-led service delivery.

Regional map of Papua New Guinea

Improving gender equality outcomes through WASH requires a gender mainstreaming approach, to support women’s participation, leadership and voice in decision-making, as well as shifting deep-seated gender norms and attitudinal change among men, male duty-bearers and local leaders. 


The Inclusive WASH for Wewak District program will use an adaptive planning approach to explore strategies that will ensure:

  • More inclusive, equitable and sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH) services.
  • The empowerment of women and people with disabilities (PWD) through support for the creation of, and effective participation in, decision-making forums associated with WASH service delivery. 
  • Collaboration with partners to take a district-wide approach to the planning and provision of WASH services, working with both rural and urban service providers.

The project builds a foundation for WASH service provision, leveraging WaterAid’s expertise with sector strengthening to improve WASH coordination and to promote data-driven, equitable planning and financing of WASH services.

The project is working towards four key outcomes:

Outcome 1: WASH services in Wewak District are improved over time and services are sustainable, gender-sensitive and socially inclusive.

Outcome 2: District WASH sector systems are strengthened and there is a sustained commitment to adequate resources for WASH services.

Outcome 3: Empowered women are leaders in the sector and people with disabilities have a greater voice in decision-making.

Outcome 4: The uptake and use of scalable, effective strategies for increasing inclusive, district-wide access to WASH by government and non-government agencies.


Innovation & Impact in Papua New Guinea


Water for Women is partnering with WaterAid to deliver Inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene for the people of Wewak in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The project aims to contribute to better WASH outcomes for Wewak by improving government-led service delivery and supporting women’s participation, leadership, and voice in decision-making for WASH.

In 2021, this project was awarded an Innovation and Impact grant to further strengthen the use of new evidence, innovation and practice in sustainable and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and, in doing so, contribute to improved learning and practice globally.


Learn more


 A water and WASH response is a COVID-19 response


In 2020, the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene was underscored as the globe grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from Australia's Partnerships for Recovery, our partners pivoted their projects and worked collaboratively to support countries in their COVID-19 responses and to embed COVID-19 preparedness into their WASH projects.

Water for Women COVID responses through WaterAid, Plan International and World Vision benefitted an estimated 485,000 people.

WaterAid worked with the Provincial Health Authority, District Development Authority, Local Level Government and East Sepik Council of Women to:

(i) expand COVID-19 awareness and preparedness to five districts (in addition to Wewak) in East Sepik Province (ii) coordinate support for government-led COVID-19 responses
(iii) provide TA to strengthen government and non-government COVID-19 WASH responses

Australia continues to support COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery activities across the Indo-Pacific region to secure our region's health, wellbeing and stability in these challenging times.

An unprecedented crisis requires a coordinated response. Through our water resources management and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects, we are not only delivering safe, equitable and sustainable water and WASH, we are also building healthy, inclusive and resilient societies. We're supporting individuals, communities and countries to endure, and recover from, the COVID-19 crisis as well as build resilience to future extreme events and natural disasters. 




Water for Women logo
WaterAid logo

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.


Photo: WaterAid / Tom Greenwood

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