PORT MORESBY - Twenty-year-old Enoch Wedewa (pictured) has experienced a change that directly benefits him in school and in his community.
The implementation of the Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) project in Western Province by World Vision has enabled Enoch to attend school, move around freely, drink clean water and be happy in his community.
Enoch was born with physical disabilities to his left hand and feet. He has had a slow development through life.
There was lack of knowledge and the means for managing disabilities and, because of the cultural and traditional perspectives influencing the lives of people with disabilities, they were unable to join community life or go to school or work.
Enoch, the second born of 12 children, is from Kodoro village, which is about three hours’ drive from Daru.
Western Province is the largest PNG province in area and has several large rivers running through it. Kodoro is a remote upriver village without infrastructure like roads, airstrips or electricity.
Despite the cultural norms associated with disability, Enoch attends Kodoro Primary School and is in Grade 6. He likes school and enjoys his studies, especially mathematics, language and science.
More than 85% of Papua New Guineans live in rural villages where access to social services such as health and rehabilitation, mobility equipment, employment and education are difficult and limited.
Before World Vision implemented the WASH project, Enoch and the rest of the community depended on the river for everything. Clean drinking water was not existent because of the absence of water catchment amenities like roofing iron and water tanks.
“Before World Vision came to put water tanks, we drank from the river and it did not taste good,” Enoch said.
The children accessed the main river for drinking and cooling off and went into the bushes because there were no proper latrines. During the rainy season, the slippery river banks posed many problems for Enoch. The impairments to his left hand and leg caused him particular difficulties.
The water from the river was not boiled or purified causing diarrhoea and other water borne sicknesses.
The World Health Organisation estimates that about 975,000 people in PNG are living with some form of disability or impairment. About 98% of this group are not receiving any support.
The WASH project has given training in disaster risk reduction, hand washing and sanitation. It has a disability inclusion approach with all the water installations, cement pathways and hand rails that makes it easy for Enoch and everyone accessing these facilities.
“I feel happy with the new water tanks,” Enoch said.
“The community has made many changes,” he said.
World Vision project coordinator in PNG, Sawiam Marei, said the Kodoro village have embraced the training and have redesigned their village with proper drainage, flowerbeds and removing trees prone to fall on houses.
Through the support of World Vision, conditions have improved and the community is better able to stand up for its human rights.