Tonga

Tonga: Volcanic Eruption Situation Report No. 4 (As of 10 February 2022)

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This report is produced by the OCHA Office of the Pacific Islands in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 4 to 10 February 2022. This is the last Situation Report for the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami emergency.

HIGHLIGHTS

 The spread of COVID had a negative impact on the aid delivery and further relief and recovery planning.

  • New Zealand provided an additional 9,300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Tonga; UNICEF supplied 15,000 Antigen Rapid Diagnostic Tests to boost laboratory capacity in the Kingdom.

  • The majority of schools – which only reopened on 31 January – have been closed again on 2 February 2022 due to the COVID lockdown.

  • It is estimated that more than 32,000 children have been psychologically affected by the emergency.

  • More than 30,000 people have been reached with WASH assistance so far.

  • An estimated 15,000 persons have been reached with health assistance and some 10,000 persons with nutrition assistance.

  • Emergency shelter and NFI assistance was distributed to 2,020 people in most-affected areas.

  • The loss in the agricultural sector is estimated at US$ 17 million, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests.

  • While communication systems have gradually been fixed, the full capacity will only be reached in a couple of weeks due to delays in repair of the undersea cable.

  • Repatriation flights to and from Tonga to resume next week.

84.8K affected people

2.4K internally displaced

31K people reached with WASH assistance

337 households received Shelter assistance

66 confirmed cases of COVID-19

32M US$ contributed or committed

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The Tongan Government and humanitarian partners continued to deliver humanitarian relief to affected people. The already challenging situation was further complicated by the emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 which impacted the aid delivery as well as the overall response planning by government authorities as well as humanitarian organizations.

Information received from partners on the ground indicate that most emergency needs have been or are being addressed, although there are still some bottlenecks in providing water and other relief items, particularly on outlying islands and other remote areas of the Kingdom. Increasingly, aid organizations are moving from emergency relief to (early) recovery and reconstruction work. The spread of the corona virus puts additional challenges on an already complex operating environment.

As of 10 February 2022, 9 am, there are 66 cases of COVID-19 in Tonga. Cases are mostly found in the capital Nuku’alofa. The samples of the virus tested in Australia confirmed the spread of the Omicron variant. On 6 February 2022, the authorities extended the lockdown until 20 February 2022 for the main island Tongatapu (population of about 74,500; 2021 Census) and Vava’u (population of about 14,300 people) and lifting it elsewhere.

Under the lockdown, shops and essential services are allowed to open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the people to restock. The public is urged to follow COVID-19 protocols such as wearing masks, maintaining 2 metres social distance, and washing hands. Red zone hotspots include Vaini, Pili, Sopu, Halaano and Fasi, where additional restrictions are being enforced.

The Ministry of Health is leading expanded testing and a campaign for booster or third shots, administering at least 2,000 shots by 9 February, according to a government press release. With additional people receiving their first and second doses of the vaccine, 98 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and above have received the first dose (75,315 people out of 76,911 people) and 89 per cent the second dose (68,250 people out of 76,911 people), according to the Pacific Humanitarian Team Health and Nutrition Cluster. Booster vaccination coverage for the target population of age 18 and above is 13 per cent (8,229 people out of 63,128 people).

New Zealand provided an additional 9,300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on 5 February 2022. This donation brings their total vaccine donations to Tonga to over 47,000 doses. Another 55,000 doses were committed by Australia and Japan, and through COVAX facilitated by UNICEF and WHO.

Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni announced in a 9 February 2022 press release that the Government will support households in the Tongatapu and Vava’u with electricity bills by subsidizing Tonga Power Limited with TOP$100 (about US$38) each for all registered households. The authorities will also provide TOP$10,000 (about US$3,800) for the three constituencies of Vava’u and TOP$20,000 (about US$7,600) for the 10 constituencies of Tongatapu to assist the most affected households, including those not on the power grid.

The UN Satellite Centre (UNOSAT) released on 4 February 2022 its preliminary building damage analysis and a rapid assessment of transportation network conditions of Tongatapu, ‘Eua, and Ha’apai. These comprehensive satellite-derived analysis covered 98 per cent of the landmass (366km2 of 372km2), identifying 2,935 buildings/structures with visible damages and 463 road/bridge obstacles. Details are available on UNOSAT Live Maps. This damage information complements government-led Initial Damage Assessments (IDAs) currently being finalized.

Repatriation flights to and from Tonga that were suspended due to the volcanic ash clouds are set to resume on 15 February 2022, according to the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO). Flights from Australia, Fiji and New Zealand will initially prioritize stranded citizens and those with critical medical conditions. Passengers arriving in Tonga are subject to 14-day quarantine in government isolation facilities.

Tonga ranks third in the WorldRiskIndex 2021 after Vanuatu and Solomon Islands with the highest disaster risk worldwide. As the people of Tonga recover from the volcanic eruption and tsunami, the Pacific Humanitarian Team and partners will continue to extend support with building back better and strengthening resilience, mitigation, risk reduction and preparedness.

Disclaimer

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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