Tonga: One year since earthquake and tsunami, homes being rebuilt

Tonga Red Cross staff and volunteers cleaning debris from the fresh-water lake in Nomuka.

Tonga Red Cross staff and volunteers cleaning debris from the fresh-water lake in Nomuka.

Photo: Tonga Red Cross Society

Nukualofa/Suva, 13 January 2023 – One year since the devastating earthquake and tsunami that cut off Tonga from the rest of the world, homes are being rebuilt for over 200 displaced families.

The complex process of rebuilding shattered communities, devastated from the triple disasters of the Volcano, its resultant Tsunami and then a first wave of the COVID Pandemic, has also included cleaning water supplies polluted with ash, re-establishing lost livelihoods and providing cash assistance for people with disabilities and those displaced from their damaged homes.

Tonga Red Cross Society has been working with a variety of partners – including the Tongan government to support displaced households, some of whom – one year later are still seeking shelter with families, friends and in church halls.

Secretary-General of Tonga Red Cross Society, Sione Taumoefolau, said:

"The disaster continues to make its presence felt in the lives of all of us in Tonga, but especially those on the outer islands, where communities were flattened, and fragile livelihoods destroyed.

"We must continue to strengthen our efforts to help the most vulnerable among us, many of whom are still without homes.

"Working alongside our Red Cross partners, we are determined to stand with the most affected communities as they undertake the long process of rebuilding their lives."

Tonga Red Cross has been distributing cash voucher assistance to most affected households both in Tongatapu, and outer island groups of Ha’apai and ‘Eua. Teams have also been working with a variety of stakeholder groups to assist people with disabilities, including families and students of ‘Ofa Tui moe Amanaki disability school.

In an innovative pilot project of Tonga Red Cross working alongside the government and the Nomuka community, a cash for work project saw equipment and financial support provided to assist community members in cleaning debris from their fresh-water lake. With access to clean and safe drinking water a priority, Red Cross has also undertaken a number of water projects, including the installation of water filters in affected communities.

Tonga Red Cross has also been providing much needed psychological first aid training and as a result - it is only just now, one year on, that people are beginning to talk more freely about the events of that day and revealing some of the trauma they felt and how they are coping.

Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood, said:

“A disaster of this scale requires a coordinated effort between local, national and international actors. Our Red Cross partners have been an important part of this, coordinating closely with response and recovery efforts at the community level.

“Given the magnitude of this disaster, it will continue to take some time to rebuild and get things back to normal. IFRC will be right there with Tonga Red Cross every step of the way.”

For more information or to arrange a media interview, contact:

In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected]

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