Working with a range of partners, Oil Search Foundation is supporting the Emergency Controller’s Office to install water tanks across the province, mainly in health centres and schools affected by the 2018 earthquake. Over 100 will be installed, providing clean water by the end of this month.
“This is absolutely vital work,” says Emergency Controller, Dr Bill Hamblin, who kicked off the initiative with the purchase of taps, pipes and tanks.
“Even when you factor in urban areas like Port Moresby, only about 40 percent of Papua New Guineans have access to safe and clean drinking water. In places like Hela, that number has always been much lower, and the earthquake made it much lower still.”
The 2018 earthquake damaged water tanks and toilets all over the Highlands and polluted once-fresh rivers and creeks. Health centres were not exempt from the destruction, and nor were the region’s churches and schools.
As Hela Provincial Health Authority CEO Dr James Kintwa notes, “PNG ranks currently at the bottom of all Pacific countries for all water, sanitation and hygiene-related health statistics, and by some measures, we’re amongst the worst in the world. Water-borne diseases like diarrhoea are still far too common in Hela Province, and the re-emergence of cholera and polio is a major concern.”
And, as OSF’s Head of Signature Programs – Kutubu/Kikori Eileen Tugum notes, the tanks will not just be tackling a serious health problem. She said improving access to safe water is an absolute necessity for everyone everywhere and health for women and girls who bear the brunt of hauling it often over long distances.
“Water is essential; to life and for health and everyone should be able to get a drink and wash in safety and with at least some level of comfort and ease.”
Students have been a major beneficiary of this initiative with 11 tanks now in schools all over the province, while 31 tanks have been installed in health facilities. Dr Kintwa notes they have already started to “deliver health care in a cleaner environment”.
“The use of clean water in the communities will improve hygiene of our people. Hela Provincial Health Authority will work with all the different stakeholders to raise awareness on water and sanitation issues so that hygiene practice using the installed tanks and other sources of water will help reduce diarrhoeal/water borne and other skin diseases. We acknowledge all the partners in this project.”
Rev Olene Yawai, who is Deputy Chairman of the Hela Provincial Health Authority Board, has also been active in the project. He is proud that all the partners involved have been able to make such strong progress.
While acknowledging the crucial support provided by all partners, he paid tribute to the Hela Council of Churches, as many of their members run the health facilities affected and have been very supportive of the project.