Plan to help Tongan children as natural disaster recovery efforts continue

Save the Children are providing support and relief to the around 28,000 children affected by the natural disaster as recovery efforts in the country continue.

Air Movements Operators unload humanitarian assistance and engineering equipment at Fua'amotu International Airport in Tonga.

Air Movements Operators unload humanitarian assistance and engineering equipment at Fua'amotu International Airport in Tonga. Source: Australian Government

Temporary learning and child-friendly spaces will be set up around Tonga to help around 28,000 children who have been affected by the volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami.

Save the Children will provide school bags, hygiene kits and cash assistance to affected families as it's anticipated the scheduled start to the school year will be pushed back while the full extent of the damage is being assessed.

The CEO of Save the Children Fiji said the organisation is incredibly concerned for the mental wellbeing of children in the Pacific nation, with the natural disaster causing a lot of distress and anxiety.


"There is absolutely a need for psychosocial support and counselling for children," Shairana Ali said.

"We still don't have a lot of information about how families have fared on those low-lying islands, so we are very concerned for the safety and the wellbeing of children."

Power has been restored to 90 per cent of the country and some international phone calls are now available but communication networks largely remain affected after a major underwater cable was damaged.

Telstra is waiving charges for calls and texts from home phones, post-paid services and mobiles for customers reaching out to family who have been impacted by recent events from Saturday.

The Australian telco has provided technical support and satellite technology over the past two days, which arrived in Tonga on Thursday following the departure of an Australian C-17 plane carrying humanitarian aid and supplies.

HMAS Adelaide loaded with critical humanitarian supplies will also provide aid, leaving Brisbane on Friday and taking five days to reach Tonga.

International Development and the Pacific Minister Zed Seselja on Saturday confirmed three humanitarian flights have arrived in Tonga carrying food, water, telco equipment and medical equipment.

New Zealand and Japan have also coordinated with Australia to provide aid to Tonga and will be sent to the island in a "paced" manner, to ensure their airport and supply chains are not immediately overwhelmed. 

"The feedback on the ground again I got today is many people displaced, obviously families and communities are coming together with that but more equipment is going to be needed," he said. 

Tonga's COVID-free status has complicated aid delivery.

"We respect absolutely the desire of the Tongan government not to add a COVID crisis to a humanitarian crisis caused by a tsunami," Mr Seselja told reporters.

He confirmed Tongan officials have not reported any more confirmed deaths in the wake of the twin natural disaster that has claimed the lives of three people so far. 

With additional reporting by SBS News.

3 min read
Published 22 January 2022 at 8:18am
Source: AAP, SBS