PAPUA New Guinea, where 60% of the population live without a safe water supply, has the poorest access to clean water in the world, according to a study released to mark World Water Day.
A report on the state of the world’s water showed Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Chad and Mozambique joining PNG in the bottom five of a table ranking countries according to the percentage of households with access to clean water.
Globally, 650 million people are living without an “improved” source of drinking water, which includes public taps, protected wells, rainwater or water piped into households.
Henry Northover, head of policy for WaterAid, the organisation behind the study, said the global water and sanitation crisis was not a problem of limited supplies.
“This is not always an issue of scarcity – by and large we are dealing with a distributional crisis. It is fixable with clear and coherent government policies, and with the focused support of international agencies,” Northover said.
The study also explored the high costs of water access, examining why the poorest communities often foot the largest bill. When there is no public access to clean water, people are forced to buy their water from street vendors, tanker trucks or other informal delivery services, all of which charge a premium.
In Port Moresby, the average cost for 50 litres of water from a delivery service is £1.84 (K8.10), which accounts for half of a typical daily salary. This compares with £0.07(31 toea) for 50 litres of piped water in the UK.
“There is perverse irony when it comes to water poverty,” Northover said. “Those who have the least have to pay the most for this most essential of human needs. And they pay the most not in proportion of their income, but in absolute terms.