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Papua New Guinea
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Investing in water, sanitation and hygiene vital

BILLIONS of people around the world are continuing to suffer from poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene, according to a new report by Unicef and the World Health Organisation.
Some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services, 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic hand washing facilities.
The Joint Monitoring Programme report, Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities finds that, while significant progress has been made toward achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene, there are huge gaps in the quality of services provided.
Despite the fact that Papua New Guinea has made progress in improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities, there is still much work to be done.
PNG’s estimated 8.5 million people are among those with the least access to safe water supply in the world.
The Government’s WaSH Policy 2015 – 2030 indicates that 89 per cent of people in urban areas and 33 per cent in rural areas have access to safe water while 57 per cent of urban dwellers and only 13 per cent of the rural population have access to basic sanitation.
Water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infections, are among the principle causes of deaths in children under five years.
PNG ranks currently at the bottom of all Pacific countries for all WaSH related health statistics, with over 6,000 diarrheal deaths per year.
In 2009, cholera re-emerged in PNG after 50 years.
Over 60 per cent of the population use unimproved water supplies and less than 20 per cent use improved sanitation facilities, leading to widespread open defecation in rural communities.
Associate director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Unicef says mere access is not enough.
If the water isn’t clean, isn’t safe to drink or is far away, and if toilet access is unsafe or limited, then we’re not delivering for the world’s children.
Children and their families in poor and rural communities are most at risk of being left behind.
According to Unicef, most schools also do not have access to piped water systems. Most depend on rainwater to meet the drinking and hygiene needs of students. Some schools are forced to close for a few days when there is extreme shortage of water. According to the WaSH in Schools (WinS) Policy 2018-2023, 51 per cent of schools in the country have access to water while only 28 percent have access to sanitation.
Adolescent girls in school suffer the most. Only 8 per cent of schools practice menstrual hygiene management and only 10 per cent of schools promote hand washing with soap. Many schools report absenteeism among adolescent girls, due to a lack of clean, private changing rooms without access to soap, water and sanitary pads. Some stay away from school for few days.
The Government must invest in our communities if we are going to bridge these economic and geographic divides and deliver this essential human right.
Just like other countries, PNG must double her efforts on sanitation or we will not reach universal access by 2030.
If we fail to step up efforts on sanitation, safe water and hygiene, we will continue to live with diseases that should have been long ago consigned to the history books.
Investing in water, sanitation and hygiene is cost-effective and good for society in so many ways.
It is an essential foundation for good health.

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