Papua New Guinea's Development Challenges

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country of vast cultural richness and unparalleled diversity but faces significant challenges to lift the standard of basic development for a majority of its 7 million people. 87% of PNG’s population live in rural areas largely beyond the reach of government service delivery. Most critical is the development challenge surrounding the lack of access to drinking water and safe sanitation services, fundamental elements of a healthy existence. UN figures show that, among PNG’s rural communities:

  • Access to safe drinking water is only 32%, and;
  • Access to safe sanitation facilities is only 41%.

This lack of access to drinking quality water and safe sanitation facilities results in high levels of diarrhoea and dysentery which account for the staggering figure of 15% of all child deaths under the age of 5.

Community-Centred Development

Sago Network aims to improve village health in Papua New Guinea by partnering with rural communities who are committed to improving their access to drinking water and safe sanitation. The team is a network of architects, built-environment professionals and community development experts who adopt a consultative, collaborative and capacity-building approach to each programme. Guided by the ultimate objective of improving village health, each project and undertakes a holistic process that has been developed and refined throughout numerous community programmes since 2010. This approach is today guided by five core principles that seek to place community at the centre of a water and sanitation programme with the full support of a diverse professional team:

1. Community-Centred Approach 

2. Philosophy of Process & Product 

3. Strategic Partnerships

4. Multi-Disciplinary Teamwork

5. Reflective Practice

Current Programmes

Sago Network's current programmes are focused on partnerships with coastal communities who are committed to effecting positive change in their villages through two types of programmes:

  • Securing drinking water supply via the rainwater harvesting Water Hubs, and;
  • Providing safe, permanent sanitation solutions provided by Dehydration Toilets.

PNG's coastal communities face the dual challenge of their perennially high water table environment, which limits water supply and sanitation options, and the current drought conditions being experienced across much of the country. Although the need for water and sanitation programmes throughout PNG is significant, the level of commitment that many communities demonstrate to drive their own positive change is both energising and encouraging.