Mausa Halala (pictured) is a volunteer with the Tonga National Youth Congress - Oxfam's local partner in Tonga. He and other volunteers, trained and equipped by Oxfam to provide emergency water supplies, were working within hours of the storm, purifying and distributing safe drinking water on Tongatapu and ‘Eua. Thanks to your ongoing support, they're still responding! Photo: Darren Brunk
“This has been a great experience… going out and [reaching] people that are in need shows us just how much our students are willing to help people,” says ‘Ofa Pakalani of Tonga National Youth Congress, Oxfam’s partner in Tonga.
When you support Oxfam’s response to disasters such as Tropical Cyclone Gita, which struck the Kingdom of Tonga in February, you’re supporting teams of local volunteers who are often affected by the very emergencies they’re responding to. Who better to support and develop a community than those from it?
We’ve built a strong partnership over nearly 10 years with Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC). Thanks to your support, we’re able to provide disaster preparedness and response training to teams of youth volunteers across Tonga so that when disasters like Cyclone Gita hit, young Tongans have the confidence, training and equipment to lead response efforts and help their communities recover.
The youth involved with TNYC are showing the positive impact that young people can have in their communities, and they are saving and rebuilding lives in the process. And your support is helping make TNYC’s work possible! The funds generously donated by Oxfam NZ's supporters are being used to purchase supplies for the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) kits that TNYC distribute to those in need, as well as keeping vital equipment running and maintained, and providing support to TNYC volunteers as they dedicate days and weeks away from home to help their country recover.
“This response shows the power of partnerships with local organisations. TNYC youth volunteers are leading an excellent disaster response that is saving lives and alleviating suffering. In the process, TNYC is changing public attitudes in Tonga around youth for the better, by demonstrating the contribution that young Tongans can make to their community,” says Darren Brunk, Oxfam NZ’s humanitarian specialist, who works closely with the TNYC volunteers.
Working together with Oxfam, TNYC volunteers were among the first responders in the country when Cyclone Gita hit, and have been working tirelessly ever since to rebuild the lives of those in their local communities.
The response began as a life-saving one. More than 70,000 people on the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Eua were affected, with homes and community buildings destroyed, crops ruined and lives turned upside down. Thousands of rainwater tanks were toppled and communal water sources were flooded with contaminated water, leaving 17,000 people without water or at risk of contracting a disease. TNYC were out immediately following the storm and distributed 1,431 emergency relief items like soap and tarpaulins, filtered contaminated water, cleaned and repaired tanks, and provided emergency water storage and distribution. Since the cyclone, Oxfam and TNYC have provided over 1,107,000 litres of safe drinking water to affected communities – that’s enough to supply the entire population of Tonga for two days!
On top of this, Oxfam and TNYC are conducting hygiene education classes at schools, helping protect 3,600 children from water and vector-borne disease. Alongside TNYC and Caritas Aotearoa NZ, and with financial support from the New Zealand Government, we had urgently-needed supplies on the ground ready for distribution before the storm hit – an action unique amongst international humanitarian NGOs.
Four months after the storm, we’re still there with TNYC working on the long-term rebuild. Cyclone Gita devastated many vital food sources and markets in Tonga - coconuts, bananas, fruit trees and root crops. Together with support from the New Zealand Government, Oxfam and TNYC are growing seedlings and distributing seeds to 800 farmers to help recover their livelihoods. Working with communities, we’re also identifying and assisting the most vulnerable families – such as single women-headed households and people with disabilities – to buy the produce grown through this initiative and to sell at local markets so as to restore their own incomes and livelihoods.
TNYC’s incredible work has garnered a lot of positive feedback from the communities reached:
“Thank you for everything, we feel a lot safer now.”
“Thank you TNYC volunteer workers for the hard work. We appreciate everything that you have all done.”
“The technology used to purify our water installs a sense of assurance that we can expect clean and safe water.”
“Come back! ‘Eua needs you TNYC and Oxfam!”
This response is generously supported by Oxfam Canada (through the Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund), UNICEF Pacific, the Auckland Mayoral Fund, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Oxfam Global Giving, and Oxfam New Zealand supporters.