Rebuilding after Cyclone Gita

21 March 2018

Topics: cyclone emergency "natural disaster"

On Feb 12, Cyclone Gita tore through Tonga. It was the strongest the country had seen in 60 years, and thousands of families lost their homes and their entire livelihoods.   Your gifts to the emergency appeal saved lives in the days immediately following the cyclone and are now helping people to get back on their feet.
 Just two days after the storm, I was on the ground to support our local partner and to help identify which communities had been hit the hardest, and who was most in need of shelter, food and water.

We travelled by plane to different areas of the island, including ‘Eua, to assess the damage and interview with people affected by the cyclone.
As soon as I landed, I could see the damage. There was debris everywhere, uprooted trees and crops and homes and schools were destroyed. The entire electricity grid was blown apart too, so no one had access to phones or power for days, some weeks.

Ketoni Hakeai, a school teacher who lost his entire home.
Thousands of houses had been partially or totally destroyed by the cyclone. Families were forced to take refuge in crowded evacuation centres. Many families still are still homeless.     
Thanks to your support, we were able to reach families with clean drinking water in the days following the cyclone. Without it, people would have to travel long distances to find a safe water source. This has many risks – especially for children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Some of the 300 20L water bottles we are distributing to some of the most vulnerable families, thanks to your support. This is Siu, the Programs Director at our partner organisation Tonga National Council of Churches.
As well as providing clean water, we provided tarpaulins to families whose roofs were blown off and walls destroyed, so they could stop the rain and wind from entering their homes.  It’s still the middle of the cyclone season in Tonga, so it rains almost every other day.

Vai Teu and her family have been living in a tent since their house in Hofoa was completely destroyed by the cyclone. Your gifts helped to provide them relief in the form of tarps and clean drinking water.
This has been devastating for families across Tonga. And it impacts  the poorest people, or those with large families the hardest, putting them under a lot of extra pressure. Many people who rely on subsistence farming have lost all of their crops and are struggling to feed their families.
Recovery is a slow process but with your support, we will continue to provide relief in the form of water tanks and farming programs, especially targeting the most vulnerable, including single parent families and people with disabilities.

Makafonua, in Hofoa village, has helped to shelter 12 people in his home since the cyclone. Thanks to your gifts, we were able to reach them with clean drinking water, so they didn’t have to travel long distances to safely access drinking water.

Yvette Crafti, Disaster and Emergencies Program Coordinator