Tonga youth take lead in disaster risk management

Tonga -- The involvement of youths as agents of change during early recovery efforts strengthens disaster resilience and preparedness, is a step in the right direction to achieve a sustainable future for all as outlined in the 2015 -- 2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In Tonga, the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) has stepped up its role to take the lead and ensure the communities they represent recover from the immediate impact of Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold that was felt across Tongatapu, 'Eua, Ha'apai and Vava'u island groups in April this year; and in addition further prepare for Tonga's cyclone season from November to April.

The TNYC will work closely with the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) Tonga and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Disaster Resilience for Pacific Small Islands Developing States (RESPAC) project to provide training for community youths and women to cover aspects of disaster risk management, evacuation center management and retrofitting of existing evacuation centers to reduce the risk from cyclone, earthquake and other hazards.

Youths will be provided with tools, equipment and construction materials to repair or maintain public facilities in communities affected by TC Harold; benefit from cash programming activities to repair and provide maintenance to community infrastructure. TNYC with oversight by NEMO Tonga will also provide skill development training and support for the livelihood and income generation of women groups in two villages in Tongatapu.

The Director of NEMO Tonga, Mafua'i-Vai'utukakau Maka said, "The intervention will directly benefit 75 youths, boys and girls through the training and the cash for work program, and indirectly benefit 1500 people in the community."

"We need to work more with youth and women to draw on their expertise and experiences. They are our first responders, they are the ones trying to lead everyone to safety, feed, provide shelter and in the process are already thinking of ways to return to normalcy," said Mr. Maka.

Mr. Siotame Drew Havea, President of the TNYC added, "We are grateful to UNDP RESPAC and NEMO Tonga who see the value in engaging TNYC in TC Harold recovery in Tonga. TNYC is an umbrella organization of community youth groups that are also members of the community evacuation center management committee. This partnership will further build our capacity to contribute in a more meaningful way to disaster risk management and we will be able to apply the knowledge from training to maintain and repair evacuation centers that will be safer for women and children."

The capacity building and training will also increase employability and opportunities for the youths; and strengthen TNYC institutional capacity, once trained they will be confident to step up as first responders should a disaster occur," said Mr. Havea.

Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative for UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji said, "During disasters, the marginalised groups including women, children, people living with a disability and the elderly are most affected. With only 10 years left to achieve the SDGs by the 2030 deadline, we are determined to leave no one behind in addressing development challenges. Last month, we celebrated International Youth Day promoting 'Youth engagement for Global Action,' for us to address these development challenges we must engage and empower our youths. Their active involvement and engagement will get us closer to our SDG goals and develop disaster resilience."

Mr. Bouadze added that youths when provided with the right tools and skills, can increase their awareness of disaster risks who are then able to respond to various emergencies.

Further assistance to TC Harold early recovery has been provided to the Mainstreaming of Rural Development Innovation (MORDI) Tonga Trust to support 15 communities in 'Eua, (4984 people including 2486 males and 2459 female, of which 412 are people living with a disability) with livelihood rehabilitation to restore food security and agricultural livelihood of approximately of 889 households is restored. The distribution of seeds, seedlings and fertilizers commenced late July in 'Eua.

TC Harold early recovery efforts in Tonga is being supported respectively by UNDP core funding, the Australian Government and the UNDP RESPAC Pacific Early Recovery Fund with funding from the Russian Federation.

For more information contact:

*Noud Leenders, Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Advisor and RESPAC Project Manager, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, - *

Andrea Waqa -- Montu, Communications Specialist, RESPAC Project, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, or phone +679 331 2500