Water Journal : Water Journal September 2015
water SEPTEMBER 2015 42 Feature article P apua New Guinea (PNG), Australia’s nearest neighbour, is home to around seven million people, of whom 85 per cent live in rural communities, many of which are remote and inaccessible. Ensuring that people living in rural communities have access to water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH) has been a challenge for the PNG government and recent estimates put access to improved rural water and sanitation at 33 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. 1 Recent changes in the rural WASH institutional landscape included the approval of the country’s first WASH Policy in January 2015. Just two years ago, rural WASH in PNG had no clear institutional home, dispersed between the water utility, Water PNG, and the National Department of Health. With no policy, strategy, responsibilities or guidelines to bring coherence to the sector, WASH activities were driven by individual projects and organisations. Under the new policy, a National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Authority (NWSHA) is mandated to provide improved sector leadership and co-ordination. Promoting sustainability and monitoring progress are critical issues for improved service delivery in the sector. Currently, however, little is known about whether or how previous WASH schemes have been sustained, or the factors underlying strong or weak performance. To address this gap – and provide policy makers with the evidence needed to improve sustainability – the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program undertook a study in late 2014. The study team collected data from 21 rural communities in four districts (see Figure 1) investigating the sustainability of water infrastructures and sanitation and hygiene behaviour, while also considering equity and the potential for new approaches to WASH monitoring.2 A strengths-based approach3 was used with a focus on learning from success. Sample communities were selected to represent a range of implementing agencies, technical systems (gravity-fed and rainwater harvesting), geographies and hygiene and sanitation promotion approaches. Data was collected through 38 small focus group discussions with 700 participants, 21 interviews with water supply caretakers and direct observation of water supply systems, as well as sanitation surveys in 177 households. Water suPPly systems The study found several excellent examples of communities that have been sustaining their water systems for many years. Three of the best performing communities (Avani, Yegusa and Brebrengka, in the Eastern Highlands) had been operating their systems for over 15 years – in Yegusa the system has been running since 1978. Clearly, sustainable operation of rural water systems is possible in PNG, and the study created an opportunity for communities to analyse for themselves what contributes to it. Water supply sustainability was assessed against two criteria: functionality and management. Four sub-criteria were applied for functionality: quantity, quality, access and reliability, which together described the level of service. Management reflected the communities’ own efforts to carry out preventative maintenance, fix problems, and expand or improve their systems. The measurements of functionality and management were combined to give an overall sustainability rating. The study’s strengths-based approach meant that nearly all systems were still providing water to some extent; six communities were rated highly for sustainability, nine improved and three sub-standard, while only two had failed completely. The sustainability rating was used as a lens through which to examine the qualitative data gathered through discussions with community members (particularly caretakers). Thematic analysis of this data contrasting high and low performing systems brought out the key factors that, from the community perspective, had most influenced the sustainability of the systems, as shown in Table 1. Gravity-fed The SuSTainabiliTy of RuRal WaTeR, SaniTaTion and hygiene in PaPua neW guinea In 2014 a study team from the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program collected data from 21 rural communities in Papua New Guinea. Consultants from FH Designs, along with Trevor Nott, Edkarl Galing and Isabel Blackett of the World Bank, provided this report. Figure 1. Map of PNG showing the location of the four study districts. 1 UNICEF, World Health Organisation Joint Monitoring Programme, 2015. 2 This article focuses just on the sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene outcomes. For full results of the study, including details on gender equity and social inclusion and creation of a national WASH management information system, refer to the complete final draft study report at www.fhdesigns.com.au. 3 A strengths-based approach is one that focuses on learning from success rather than contrasting success and failure. It is particularly suited to small-sample case studies such as this one.
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