Working with the Australian Government, UNICEF has today shipped emergency supplies to support more than 10,000 children and families in tsunami-ravaged Tonga.
The critical supplies include 1000 water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) kits, dignity kits, water containers and buckets to support families, and a water field test kit to help the Government of Tonga undertake crucial water quality testing.
The world’s largest children’s charity was able to move quickly as it maintains prepositioned supplies in Brisbane for humanitarian emergencies in the Pacific and South-East Asia.
Also included on the 44 palettes were 50 recreational kits, which provide sports supplies such as footballs and skipping ropes to help boost children’s mental and emotional health.
“During humanitarian disasters, children are especially vulnerable to disease and our lifesaving shipment will ensure thousands of households in Tonga have clean water to drink and critical health supplies,” said UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart.
“We know that a thick layer of volcanic ash, up to 10 centimetres in some areas, has contaminated drinking water sources and crops, and hugely affected air quality. We’re also deeply concerned about the outbreak of waterborne diseases and the mental health of young children, many of whom have been displaced after their homes were destroyed in the disaster.
“Disruption to internet and communication lines has made it difficult to get information on the extent of the damage but with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we’ve been able to move quickly to address our Pacific Island neighbour’s immediate humanitarian needs.
“With borders closed in Tonga due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we’re working closely with the Tongan Government and our local partners to reach children and families in the most affected regions while also providing supplies to help clean and disinfect flooded and ash-covered areas.”
Mr Stuart also encouraged people to donate to UNICEF Australia’s Children’s Emergency Appeal
. To help cover the anticipated immediate needs of Tongan families affected by the crisis, UNICEF Pacific seeks $AUD1.61 million ($US1.16 million) in emergency funding.
“UNICEF is on the ground — before, during and after emergencies — to support and protect children in need. Ninety cents of every $1 you donate will go directly to UNICEF’s emergency response work for children in Tonga and around the world,” Mr Stuart said.
UNICEF Pacific Ambassador Pita Taufatofua, a two-time Tongan Olympian and flag bearer, this week helped load the emergency supplies onto trucks at the Brisbane warehouse.
“It’s a huge relief being able to start getting things done and UNICEF is right here making it happen. Though this is the first load to head across to Tonga, there is still much to be done and we continue to push for help from all around the world,” said Mr Taufatofua.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano erupted on 15 January 2022, triggering a tsunami on Tonga's largest island, Tongatapu, with waves recorded at 1.2 metres near Nuku'alofa city. At least three people have died, with thousands evacuated and many homes on the low-lying islands destroyed.