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Pacific water supply is in big trouble

Children drinking (Joseph Hing)
Image by Joseph Hing

| Radio New Zealand | Extract

More than two million people in Papua New Guinea have no access to clean drinking water

AUCKLAND - There's concern that addressing water and sanitation challenges in the Pacific has become an afterthought for regional politicians and international leaders.

The Pacific Community (SPC), which provides scientific and technical expertise to the island nations on issues like water and climate change, is reporting a decline in water hygiene initiatives in the region.

Around 70% percent of the Pacific population doesn't have its basic sanitation needs met, including access to running water.

"About 45% of the Pacific population still lacks access to basic drinking water facilities," SPC director-general, Stuart Minchin said.

“It’s a worry that water doesn't get the same focus from leaders in the region and internationally as some of the more obvious issues like disaster resilience and climate change.

"Water has many negative impacts on health," he said. “In places where there is no access to clean water from a tap, people have to walk to extract water from streams and wells, and often it's the children and women that get that job.

“That interferes with education and has flow-on impacts."

Papua New Guinea is the largest Pacific population and is in dire need of better water hygiene and accessibility.

More than two million people still don't have access to clean drinking water.

Dr Minchin said PNG is not keeping up with demand and that dedicated focus and investment is crucial.

Clean water access in Oceania is at 57% - below sub-Saharan Africa - whereas most other regions in the world are above 90% access. The world average is 78%, which is where PNG sits.

The issue of water access is primarily felt in rural and remote island communities.


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