The Future is Equal

Papua New Guinea

FLOW: Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea

A woman carries a water bucket

FLOW is our four-year project based in the rural Henganofi district in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). FLOW stands for Fostering Lasting Opportunities in WaSH and WaSH stands for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene.

Our goal is to improve health, resilience, and quality of life for remote and vulnerable communities, particularly women and children, in rural PNG.

In addition to constructing water and sanitation systems, like gravity-fed water tanks and private latrines, FLOW also focuses on education. Training initiatives include improving understanding around menstruation and hygiene, improving behaviours around open defecation and hand-washing, and making sure people know how to get existing government funding to improve and maintain their community’s water and sanitation systems.

Woven flax


FLOW is part of our larger five-year, multi-country programme, Kōtui. Learn more about Kōtui here!

This te reo Māori word means binding together, or interlacing, during weaving. The woven mat represents dialogue and joint problem-solving in Pacific countries and in Timor-Leste. It is an appropriate symbol for a programme focused on inclusive and equitable governance.

A group of people stand near a sign, below is an image of water taps


Schools and communities are actively engaged, and more are becoming Open Defecation Free (ODF).

We have seen a huge change in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours as a result of training conducted! When we started the FLOW project two years ago, 85% of people in our 12 target communities in Henganofi were not using toilets. Following many conversations on the importance and benefits of hygiene and sanitation, this has reduced to 48%.

  • Two of our target communities have now been certified as “Open Defecation Free” (ODF) – meaning residents have installed toilets and handwashing stations and are using them. Another five communities are ready for ODF certification, just awaiting formal assessment.
  • Once a community has received its certification, Oxfam can begin to install toilets and water points in the confidence that they will be valued and used. 
Map showing areas in PNG where FLOW is active


Oxfam has partnered with New Zealand-based engineering company Lautrec Technology Group Ltd to help plan the water infrastructure. 

The Oxfam in PNG team prepared the engineering plans to suit the specific needs and requests of the various community sites where they will be installed, and Lautrec was able to make changes and improvements to the designs remotely. We are excited to have begun construction in these rural communities.

Our local construction partner in PNG will lead community trainings on WaSH facility maintenance. “If communities can construct it themselves, they will fix and maintain it themselves with an increased knowledge through construction.” – Oscar Tomati, Oxfam PNG.

Designs for gravity-fed water systems were finalised over the last few months, including a peer review from New Zealand-based engineering firm Lautrec Consulting Engineers. The materials for water systems in Imaka and Jugusa communities were recently purchased and delivered.

A group of people pose with water system materials in PNG
Image of two toilet facilities side by side
FLOW aims to improve schools’ hygiene facilities like the ones we see on the right. In December 2019, we visited schools where Oxfam has never worked before (left) and returned to ones where we have built hygiene facilities in the past (right). The goal is to build facilities that allow more privacy, especially for girls!


Many girls in PNG miss school each month because they cannot manage their periods at school without private toilets and running water. They fall further and further behind their classmates when they consistently miss their lessons. 

Alongside our partner organisation, QueenPads, we are:

  • Shifting unhelpful stigmas about menstruation
  • Providing sanitation and menstrual hygiene education for teachers and students 
  • Building private toilets and handwashing stations.

With our partner, we have developed attendance monitoring forms, and teachers have explained to the girls the purpose of monitoring their attendance. Teachers’ feedback during school visits was positive. Girls were not embarrassed anymore. Schools are also supporting girls with their basic MH needs, resulting in most girls attending school even when they have their periods. Generally, all students, girls and boys, are now familiar with the topic of menstruation. The teachers are impressed with the girls’ improved attendance and proud of the boys’ changing attitudes and behaviours towards the girls. These schools have shown a big improvement within a short period of time. If sustained, these attitudinal and behavioural changes may have a long-lasting impact on girls’ education and life options.

“Since 2019, I’ve been seeing changes with the attendance of girls. Usually, girls skip classes during their monthly period. Ever since the Oxfam FLOW team started visiting our school monitoring girls’ attendance and trainings on MHM, the girls started to change their ways. I have seen changes in their attitude and behaviour and would like to thank Oxfam for helping me help my students.”

Deputy Headmistress of Fayantina Primary School

FLOW V4 pic


We are making progress on transforming the underlying systems that have resulted in PNG’s poor health and water access.

One goal of FLOW is to increase women’s participation in community decision-making. More women are now participating in and leading community WaSH committees and have thus been able to drive the decisions that affect them, overcoming longstanding gender biases to prove the value of women in community decision-making. In fact, three women from the Jugusa WaSH committee spearheaded the necessary behaviour changes that led to their community earning its Open Defecation Free certification!

Our local partners report that in community meetings about what kind of water systems or toilets to build, diverse voices are being heard. People living with disabilities, women, and older people are all contributing. Community leaders are seeing that when women participate and give their views, it helps men to learn that women have important agendas to discuss.

“Many times, people misunderstand the concept of gender equality, however, it is not about creating competition or differences between the husband and wife. It’s about accepting each other’s roles and assisting each other or share responsibilities when necessary,” says Rubbie Mone Oxfam WASH Gender Officer during a gender awareness training (far left, in the lower image).


This systemic change has seen women taking leadership roles and driving the change necessary for their village to improve and get the toilets and water points they want. Another goal of FLOW is to increase understanding of the government’s responsibility to deliver and maintain water and sanitation, and help communities learn how best to access existing funding.

Members of PNG’s government are moving in the right direction, with one Member of Parliament allocating an additional budget of 200,000 kina, nearly $80,000 NZD, to address community requests for additional publicly accessible water points that were beyond the scope and budget of Oxfam’s FLOW project.

Oxfam PNG team members have also reported that their most important lesson learned has been how to interact with different levels of stakeholders, from provincial level to partners to community members – a key element to the success of collaborative working.

This systems change is a vote of confidence that helps illustrate that Oxfam and PNG’s government can work in partnership to build sustainable WaSH infrastructure for people in rural PNG.

School Inspector George Leffy, Pastor Ken, and Norman Kassa, talk about water access challenges and their support for the work of TTU and FLOW, in a village in the Eastern Highlands District.


One of the most important aspects of this project is to ensure that it sustains itself long after the project is complete. To make sure that communities have ownership of these initiatives and maintain the toilets, latrines, and water points, we have established community WaSH committees. The main function of the committee is to advocate for WaSH needs at the district level, with a particular focus on pushing for increased funding for WaSH service delivery in the district. Oxfam has established 8 committees (with a plan for 12 total) and signed several MoUs with communities and provincial health boards. This helps clarify who is responsible for the sustainability and maintenance of the water systems once they’re installed.


Covid-19 is widespread throughout the Highlands of Papua New Guinea which has had intense impacts on our colleagues and partners. Every staff member has been fully vaccinated and returned to work. Oxfam Aotearoa is staying in close contact with our colleagues in PNG to see how we can continue to support them and the communities they work with, as they navigate their response to Covid-19. However, FLOW’s ongoing work to provide water, hygiene training and handwashing stations remains vital to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases into the long term.

Oxfam: New Zealand must do more for PNG – urgently

Papua New Guinea faces a deadly pandemic of misinformation

In response to the New Zealand government sending a medical and logistics support team to Papua New Guinea (PNG) over the weekend, Oxfam Aotearoa says that while essential supplies and support is a good contribution, the government can, and must, do more.

Oxfam Aotearoa Communications and Advocacy Director Dr Jo Spratt said:

“Recently, we heard Hon. Minister Mahuta outline how Aotearoa would partner with Pacific countries to achieve resilience. Referring to our Pacific neighbours as family, the Minister recognised our deep and enduring whakapapa connections – Tātai Hono, and reiterated the importance of Tātou Tātou – all of us together. If there is any time to put these values into action, it is when one of our family members is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis. This support from the government is a good start, but more needs to be done and urgently.”

Oxfam Papua New Guinea Country Director Eunice Wotene says that as the third coronavirus wave escalates out of control in the country, people are experiencing a lot of challenges. There are multiple issues over Covid-19 vaccinations, lockdowns, and an overwhelmed health system further perpetuating an already stressful situation.

In an effort to control the outbreak, the PNG government has put in place control measures banning gatherings of more than 20 people and encouraging the general public to follow the “Niupela Pasin” (new normal). Provincial Controllers like that of the Eastern Highland Province have implemented travel restrictions across the borders between districts. Wotene says that control measures implemented at the provincial level have helped reduce the spread of infection and has resulted in a reduction in the number of cases presenting at the hospital. However, this has also caused challenges and restricted people from getting to vaccination centres. It has also created economic challenges for people because they can’t get to markets, sell their produce, and earn an income to sustain themselves. This has, in turn, led to an increase in other social issues like petty crimes. 

Thousands of doses of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been coming into PNG from neighbouring countries, but despite the large number of vaccines, PNG is struggling to get its vaccination rates above 9 per cent. Wotene says that while vaccines are welcome and needed, people are either misinformed about the risks, or unable to get vaccines:

“The situation is complicated. Many of our people live in remote rural villages. Information and vaccines aren’t reaching them, and travel restrictions between district borders make things difficult. For some people, even if they could make it to a clinic, they aren’t going because of the misinformation out there about the vaccines’ side-effects. There is a real sense of urgency now that we must do all we can to reach these people.

“In some villages, two or more family members have died from Covid-19, just days or weeks apart. We have a health system overcome with sick people and our people are dying.”

Local and international media recently reported that due to Port Moresby morgues being overwhelmed with the dead, PNG authorities had no choice but to approve mass burial.

New World Bank research, titled Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy: Survey and Experimental Evidence from Papua New Guinea, examined the motivation behind vaccine hesitancy in Papua New Guinea and tested various means of increasing people’s willingness to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. The report found that one of the main hurdles for Papua New Guineans was the fear of the vaccine itself. However, people’s replies also indicated they were open to learning more, particularly if information came from health workers. The research showed that when people were given basic information on the safety of the vaccine and the dangers of Covid-19 that increased the percentage of people who said they were willing to be vaccinated. 

Wotene said: “We need health workers to go to the people to provide useful and factual information and help ease their fears. There is also need for mobile clinics where people from the rural communities can be reached for vaccination.”

Dr Spratt said: “In addition to the recent support and supplies, the NZ government should send new emergency funding to support the PNG government and other development partners to rapidly roll-out vaccine information campaigns across the country. This could be done through village health workers, local radio stations and other locally-appropriate communication methods.

“New Zealand still has millions of spare AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines that we are not using here. We can and should donate these to PNG.”


Thank You – Clean Water Appeal Donation

Thank you for your generous gift!
You will receive your donation receipt via email.

On behalf of mothers and babies in Papua New Guinea, our local partners, and the team at Oxfam Aotearoa, I wanted to say thank you so much for your donation.

You are supporting systemic change which means your donation will have maximum impact. Your generosity is helping to create sustained, transformative change across families, communities, and generations.

We can’t thank you enough for your generous support and display of kaha (courage), tika (justice) and mannakitanga (connectedness). Together we are working to build a better world now and for future generations

Jason Myers signature

Jason Myers,
Kaiwhakahaere Executive Director, Oxfam Aotearoa

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Oxfam concerned with the recent spike in PNG COVID-19 cases

Papua New Guinea

Oxfam in PNG with its local partners is deeply concerned with the recent spike in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The recent increase within the communities exposes many people, particularly the most vulnerable, to the risk of possibly contracting the virus.

Oxfam PNG Country Director, Anand Das, explained that in response to the alarming number of new COVID-19 cases Oxfam remains committed to supporting the work being done by Government in ensuring the safety of its citizens especially in vulnerable communities by re-enforcing the need to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and preventative measures.

“We have observed that there is still a large number of people who are not adhering or are unable to adhere to the preventative measures enforced by Government and this is extremely worrying. The National Department of Health has also reported seeing community transmission in the National Central District, making our work in amplifying our awareness messages even more vital at this point,” said Mr Das.

PNG lifted its COVID-19 Pandemic State of Emergency on 2 June 2020 and in the first week of July three more cases were confirmed. Thereafter, the total number of reported cases increased to 31 and then 62 within just a few days. As of 1 August, total cases have now increased to 91; including 51 active cases and two deaths.

The PNG government has taken immediate action by restricting domestic travel, increasing provincial border checks, and making wearing of masks mandatory, restricting public gatherings, imposing of curfews and intensifying contact tracing efforts.

“Testing clinics have also been set-up in various centres and the St John’s Ambulance is also providing testing services at a small fee to assist.  We encourage people to take advantage of this service and most importantly to adhere to the protocols,” said Mr Das.

He explained that there is growing concern also with the lack of understanding by the public on the need to utilise these clinics and the laxity in adhering to the preventative measures. “There is a need for more coordinated communication to re-enforce the messaging and this is where civil society organisations, NGOs and local partners can assist in reaching out to the people.”

Oxfam has initiated its COVID-19 Response Plan with support from the Australian Humanitarian Partnership Disaster Ready (DFAT) programme to spread community awareness through different forms of local and international media. Assistance received from the New Zealand Government (through MFAT) is also being initiated with an integrated approach of public health projects, awareness on COVID protocols, addressing food and income security of vulnerable populations and supporting district and provincial administration in the response.

“With the restrictions, our immediate concern is the safety and well-being of our staff and their families as well. We are also concerned with the safety of our partners in the communities and we may consider scaling down some of our programs on the ground and focus more on risk communication and community engagement by providing more COVID-19 awareness through the media,” explained Das.

Das also added that cases are expected to increase, and Oxfam in PNG will focus on community outreach and awareness on COVID-19 protocols throughout the next 12-18 months, while concentrating on building resilience of communities through food security and nutritional activities, hand hygiene and safe sanitation, and gender and inclusion, including addressing gender relations and women’s increased workloads in the long run and supporting district and provincial administration in finalising their COVID-19 Response Plans.


– ends –

For interviews or more information please contact: 
Kelsey-Rae Taylor | | +64 21 298 9854

Empowering School Girls In PNG

PNG FLOW Appeal Page Banner

You can Help Senzie finish her education, and have the chance of a better future.

“I would like to finish my education, go to work like other people do. I want to become a journalist and to travel around the world” – Senzie, 15 years old.

As a female student living in a rural community in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, life is uncertain. Despite Senzie’s ambition, she faces a massive challenge to complete her education. Every month, Senzie struggles to manage her period without basic resources like pads or tampons and is hampered by cultural taboos around the subject. Place yourself in her shoes. If you missed a week of school every single month, would you have been able to complete your education?

“Sometimes when we girls have periods, we stay at home. Because there’s no safe place for us to dispose our rubbish or change.” – Senzie.

A young girl should not be restricted or held back by her period.

You can help to empower Senzie –  and girls just like her – to hygienically and safely manage their periods and ensure they receive an education. For Senzie, an education equals the chance to escape poverty and have a better future.

5 TIMES THE IMPACT: Donate today and your donation will have five times the impact thanks to the New Zealand Aid Programme. 

“With your help and support we can give the children a better education. We can provide for the educational needs of both the boys and the girls” – Mr Kaupa, school principal, Papua New Guinea

Here’s how you can empower Senzie to have a better future:

Your donation will see you become a part of Oxfam’s four-year FLOW programme. Along with other generous donors, you will reach 12 rural communities and impact 30,000 people. You will help to provide:

• Reusable pads for school girls. (Made by locals for locals, creating jobs and income)

• Safe, gender-separated toilets.

• Menstruation, hygiene and sanitation training to communities.

• High-quality, long-term sustainable water supplies and sanitation infrastructure in 12 schools and eight health centers.

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Here’s how we’re helping rural farmers in Papua New Guinea


The onions from Steven Bare’s garden in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea bring more smiles than tears. He’s thrilled to harvest another bumper crop.

Steven and his wife Maria have turned their family’s fortunes around since taking part in an Oxfam project that helps rural farmers improve the quality and quantity of their bulb onions.

Steven says, “In the past, we spent time in the gardens, but not as seriously as what we are doing today. When we got our heads together and started this group, Oxfam introduced the bulb onions to help us move forward. Oxfam funded the project, and with this came a lot of good things and change.”

Thanks to you, business is booming for Steven and the other families in his farming co-op.

“We became more engaged with this work and it has affected our way of thinking and working. We now have set aims and goals. Oxfam gave us bulb onion seeds. With this, our lives have changed a lot.

“This will be the third harvest. We distribute the income equally amongst the four families. With the second harvest’s sales, we put the money into school fees and invested more in bulb onions.”

The father of four daughters says, “In the past, we never thought we could live this type of life, living well … simply because we had no money. We did not have good things that make up a house, like nice plates, cups, mattresses, and pillows and blankets. But when Oxfam came in, we were introduced to bulb onions and this product brought money, just enough for us to buy what we always wished for.”

With a proud smile, he says, “This is life-changing.

Story originally featured in Oxfam Australia’s Voices July 2019.