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UNICEF on standby to support cyclone-hit Tonga

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

UNICEF NZ is on standby, ready to respond with emergency supplies and personnel in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Ian, which devastated parts of Tonga at the weekend.

Most of the damage was sustained in the northeast islands of the Ha’apai group, and latest reports indicate up to 5,000 people have been affected, with some 2,000 living in temporary emergency shelters.

UNICEF NZ Executive Director Dennis McKinlay said the agency was continuing to liaise closely with the Tonga National Emergency Management Office and other agencies in the country.

"UNICEF Pacific staff, as part of the Pacific Humanitarian Team, has been meeting to assess the scope of the emergency situation and the response needed. We have emergency supplies and personnel ready to be deployed but we are currently awaiting a decision from the Tongan Government on the level of support that may be required from international agencies." If called on to assist, UNICEF will actively lead clusters of agencies working in Water and Sanitation, Education and Nutrition, and in Child Protection.

With communications still limited in some of the affected areas, the full impact of the Cyclone is still being assessed. "However, the key issues are mainly access to clean, safe drinking water and food, shelter and sanitation. We are particularly concerned about displaced women and children whose needs have not yet been assessed," Mr McKinlay said.

Shelter, food, water and hygiene kits will be needed in the initial response to the disaster. UNICEF has prepositioned emergency supplies ready to mobilise in Suva including soap, water containers, purification tablets, and water tanks. Initial reports indicate some primary schools have been damaged and some are being used as evacuation centres. UNICEF can also provide tents, tarpaulins and school-in-a box kits for students displaced by the disaster if needed.

Mr McKinlay says agencies will need to continue to work closely and to co-ordinate their efforts with the Pacific Humanitarian Team, "Emergency responses require coordinated effort from all those involved to avoid duplication and to ensure all those who need help receive it."

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