Our work overseas

Tongan Emergency: $800,000 raised for children and families

Supporting the response and recovery in Tonga after the volcanic eruption and tsunami in January.

What was the situation in Tonga? 

On Saturday January 15th 2022, Tonga was devastated by the violent eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai Volcano and the resulting tsunami. The eruption was one of the largest in the last 30 years in Tonga, sending an ash cloud 20 km into the air and triggering a 1.2m tsunami that slammed into coastal areas – doing horrific damage to communities, homes and schools.  

Before and After the Tonga eruption and tsunami, captured by aerial photograph
Before and After the Tonga eruption and tsunami, captured by aerial photograph

What was the impact on children? 

As with any emergency, children are always the worst affected. 

Almost 85% of Tonga’s population was impacted by the disaster in some way, including as many as 36,500 children.  

Many houses were destroyed, leaving children homeless.And a number of schools were damaged right before the beginning of the new school year, impacting on kids access to education.  

The tsunami wiped out livelihoods and severely damaged food crops, putting added pressure on families' ability to cope. Children’s access to clean water and safe food was hampered by contamination from a thick blanket of volcanic ash, which also affected the air quality for days afterward. 

How did UNICEF respond? 

UNICEF was on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the emergency, ensuring children and families received the emergency care and supplies they needed.   

As part of our response, we shipped 44 metric tons of humanitarian supplies to Tonga. These were pre-positioned supplies shipped directly from Brisbane, including 1,000 water, sanitation, and hygiene kits, water testing kits, jerry cans and buckets and recreational kits for children to support psycho-social recovery. 

UNICEF responds to more than 300 emergencies every year, including in the Pacific. Being able to respond quickly and at scale in a crisis is important. With largest humanitarian warehouse in the world in Copenhagen, Denmark and supply hubs spread around the globe; our huge logistics network means we can deliver emergency supplies absolutely anywhere in the world, in under 48 hours. 

UNICEF has been responding to crises affecting children for more than 75 years, and with help from our donors, we’ll continue to be there for kids before, during and after a crisis.  

Thanks to awesome Kiwis and local businesses, more than $800,000 was raised to help with the immediate response to the disaster and support the ongoing recovery efforts in Tonga.  

We no longer require funding to help with the response and recovery operation, so UNICEF’s Tonga Emergency Appeal is now closed. 

To ensure all donations received go to the right place we close appeals once the target amount has been raised.  

If you would like to support our ongoing emergency work, including in the Pacific, please make a donation to our Greatest Need Appeal