09 April 2014 (Nuku’alofa, Tonga) – The Government of Tonga and the United Nations Development Programme today signed an agreement for recovery efforts and to strengthen preparedness for future cyclone impacts following Tropical Cyclone Ian which devastated the islands of Ha’apai in January.
The Government of Tonga estimates total damages of US$29.7 million from Tropical Cyclone Ian which caused significant damage to homes, infrastructure and vegetation in 18 villages across six islands in Ha’apai – ‘Uiha, Uoleva, Lifuka, Foa, Ha’ano and Mo’unga’one. Over 5,000 people were directly affected and more than 3,500 people were left homeless. The main livelihoods in Ha’apai are weaving, small-scale tourism, fishing and agriculture and these were severely disrupted.
“The Government is indeed grateful for the continued support from both the local and international communities towards the recovery efforts in Ha’apai. Without the assistance of our development partners like the UNDP, the recovery efforts will not be sustainable,” said the Honourable Dr ‘Aisake V. Eke, Minister for Finance and National Planning.
“We are also equally pleased as this particular initiative is focusing on promoting sustainable income activities which will help the people of Ha’apai return to their previous standard of living or better after Tropical Cyclone Ian hit.”
Under the Post Cyclone Livelihoods Recovery and Cash-for-Work in Ha’apai Tonga project, UNDP will provide assistance to the affected communities to facilitate the transition from emergency relief to longer-term development and sustainability through the provision of temporary income generation and livelihoods recovery. This will include temporary income to disaster affected families to cover immediate financial needs and commitments provided; recovery of traditional livelihoods accelerated; and capacity of local government strengthened to design and implement livelihoods recovery and temporary employment programmes in support of overall early recovery efforts.
“The project will assist the families in Ha’apai to clean debris in the affected areas, and provide cash income in return to their work. We hope this scheme will speed up their recovery from the damage. UNDP Debris Advisor and Recovery Advisor, who have been deployed this week, will also assist the government to serve those communities better,” said Akiko Fujii, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative.
UNDP will partner with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Ministry of Internal Affairs to deliver the project in Ha’apai. In addition, a national staff supported by UNDP will be based in Ha’apai to facilitate hands-on recovery coordination and will work with local Ha’apai authorities.