THE Government of Tonga is in a state of emergency after an underwater volcano erupted on Jan 15, 2022, triggering tsunamis and ash plumes across the archipelago.
The ash-stained South Pacific Kingdom is now suffering the tsunami’s after-effects, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Access to safe water for 50,000 people throughout the island remains a serious concern,” OCHA said.
“An estimated 60,000 have been affected by the damage to the agricultural sector due to ash, saltwater intrusion and the potential of acid rain.
“60 – 70 per cent of livestock on household properties have perished from the disaster.”
The Tongan Government regarded the damage as ‘unprecedented’ in their recent statement, calling on the international community for humanitarian support.
On January 20, the Australian Government, in partnership with UNICEF, shipped urgent aid to over 10,000 families that were made victims of the tsunami.
UNICEF Australia’s CEO, Mr Tony Stuart, said health and safety concerns of children remain a priority.
“During humanitarian disasters, children are especially vulnerable to disease,” he said.
“Our lifesaving shipment will ensure thousands of households in Tonga have clean water to drink and critical health supplies.”
Alongside emergency supplies, UNICEF Australia has shipped recreational kits to boost mental and emotional morale for Tongan children.
The kits contain sports supplies like skipping ropes and soccer balls as objects of respite from the tsunami’s calamity.
Alongside UNICEF Australia, Red Cross has responded to the humanitarian disaster through fieldwork.
Pacific Head Delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), Katie Greenwood, said local teams are working to establish the disaster scale so supplies can be issued accordingly.
“Trained Tonga Red Cross teams will be on the ground supporting evacuations in coordination with public authorities, providing first aid if needed, and distributing prepositioned relief supplies,” she said.
“Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1,200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits.”
Whilst humanitarian responses are in full swing, the scope of destruction is yet to be confirmed.
Tia Haralabakos is a Media Communications student at Monash University specialising in Journalism and human rights. She is interested in the multi-faceted landscape of digital media, particularly addressing challenges to online reporting like diversity and content moderation. Tia’s journalistic interests include human rights and social affairs.