For many, the Tonga islands appear to be the ideal Pacific paradise of sandy beaches, warm sun and blue ocean. But the reality for Tongans is more complex, especially with climate change bringing more frequent and stronger storms.
So when Cyclone Gita tore through the two main islands (Tongatapu, pop. 75,416, and ‘Eua, pop. 5,016) with winds of nearly 200 km/hour and heavy rain, the islands incurred heavy damage.
The category 4 storm, the strongest storm to hit Tonga in 60 years, affected approximately 70% of the population. It left more than 4,500 in evacuation shelters and damaged the majority of dwellings.
The principal concern for residents is accessing clean water. Extensive damage to rainwater tanks and catchments means many Tongans are now reliant on bottled water for their immediate water needs. In addition, communal sanitation infrastructure (pit toilets and septic tanks), which most of the population relies on, were also damaged or contaminated because of the storm surge and heavy rains.
With funding from the Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund, managed by the Humanitarian Coalition, Oxfam will help approximately 17,000 of the most vulnerable and hard hit people. Oxfam was deemed the best-placed agency by the Humanitarian Coalition member agencies to respond to this crisis.
The NGO is coordinating its response with its local partner, the Tongan government and other aid organizations on the ground. Oxfam will provide emergency drinking water, repair and clean rainwater tanks and catchments and build emergency latrines at evacuation centres, schools and in worst affected communities.
The Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund is a joint mechanism financed by Global Affairs Canada, the Humanitarian Coalition and its member agencies.