Tonga braces for Cyclone Winston

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As Cyclone Winston bears down on Tonga, Oxfam New Zealand is preparing a two-pronged response: helping local communities recover from cyclone damage and ensuring the risk of the present Zika virus spreading is minimised.

Earlier this week Cyclone Winston tracked closely near Vanuatu then turned towards Tonga, crossing Vava'u as a Category Two causing power outages and damage to crops. Winston then left Vava’u but stormed back towards the islands. It’s now picking up speed and will potentially increase in strength to Category Four as it reaches Vava'u a second time.

Oxfam is ready to send emergency staff to Tonga if needed, to assess the situation on the ground to identify the most urgent needs. We are working closely with the Tongan government to monitor threat of the Zika virus.

Carlos Calderon, Pacific Humanitarian Manager for Oxfam New Zealand, says: “Cyclone Winston is the second to hit Tonga this year. Oxfam is supporting its community partners and we are ready to reach out with emergency supplies to those affected should they need our help. With support from the New Zealand Aid Programme our water equipment is on the ground and ready to go – with enough supplies to provide 8,000 people with safe water.

“But another deadly threat lies in the wake of Winston - the presence of Zika virus in Tonga could spread easily in a response situation. Oxfam is working with our local team to ensure a coordinated safe water, sanitation and hygiene programme to minimise the risk.”

Oxfam, along with its partner Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC), operates virgin coconut oil and organics programmes throughout the country. Oxfam is working with TNYC to prepare for an appropriate and coordinated response.

In January 2014, Tropical Cyclone Ian ripped through the Ha'apai islands in Tonga, destroying buildings and homes. Oxfam launched an emergency response, providing access to safe water, ensuring sanitation needs were met, and helping people recover their livelihoods so they could earn a living and support themselves and their families.