SUVA, FIJI (17 January 2022) - UNICEF Pacific is ready to work together with the Government of Tonga and its partners to ensure urgent life-saving support is provided to families and children in the aftermath of the volcanic eruption and tsunami.
“We are on standby to provide humanitarian support to the Government of Tonga and its people affected by the volcanic eruption and tsunami,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Jonathan Veitch. “UNICEF will work with the government, civil society organizations, and other development partners to ensure immediate response efforts on the ground, which includes providing clean water, and emergency health supplies for children and families affected.”
Following weeks of volcanic activity emitting ash, the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano in Tonga erupted violently on January 15, with satellite imagery indicating a 5 km wide plume of ash, steam, and gas, rising approximately 20 km above the volcano. Within minutes, the volcanic eruption generated a 1.2-metre tsunami that crashed ashore in coastal areas of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa. Tsunami warnings were also issued for Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Australia, and New Zealand.
The majority of the country has been impacted by a 1-2cm layer of volcanic ash, which is affecting water and food supplies, and negatively impacting air quality. In the coming days, access to clean water supply will be an immediate priority. Communication lines have been interrupted since January 15, making it difficult to get information on the extent of the damage.
Once the needs are confirmed by the Government of Tonga, UNICEF is ready to transport its pre-positioned emergency supplies from Fiji and Brisbane warehouses. These include essential water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) kits, water containers and buckets, water field test kits, tarpaulins, recreational kits, and tents, that can be immediately mobilized for distribution.
With borders closed in Tonga due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF will work with the government and its partners on the ground to reach children and families with the support they urgently need.