PAPUA New Guinea offers better and improved access to improved water sources than Fiji, a United Nations report has found.
The report Freshwater under Threat - Pacific Islands ù launched on Monday said PNG offered 47 per cent access to improved drinking water sources ahead of Fiji's 40 per cent.
Both Fiji and PNG offer about half the global average and the report anticipated that both countries would fall significantly short of the Millennium Development Goal for improved drinking water access.
The findings of the United Nations Environment Programme found that the almost total reliance on rain-fed agriculture across all islands put economies and livelihoods at risk.
The report said:
* About 10 per cent of deaths of children under the age of five years in the region was attributable to water related causes;
* 90 per cent of these deaths could be traced to poor sanitation treatment systems.
* the delivery of water supplies and sanitation services in many Pacific countries fell short of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets.
According to the report, water management was one of the greatest challenges to water resource vulnerability, particularly the limited technical and governance capacity partly because of the high emigration of its skilled and educated workers.
"This brain drain hinders development in this region with many countries struggling to fill technical positions," said David Duncan, the report's author and Regional Environmental Engineer at the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities' (SPC) Water and Sanitation Programme.
"Water resource management is a critical issue in this region where many islands are isolated and have limited local resources."