Tropical Cyclone Gita - Tonga

Tropical Cyclone Gita struck Tonga in early February 2018, causing severe damage on the main island of Tongatapu, impacting an estimated 80,000 women, men, boys and girls (about 70 percent of the entire population). The Category 5 cyclone was the worst in Tonga’s recorded history with winds of more than 230km/h causing destruction to homes, water supply systems, farming land and livelihoods. More than 800 homes were destroyed, a further 4,000 damaged and over 4,500 people were evacuated leaving an estimated repair bill of $252.5 million.

Australia responded with a comprehensive package of humanitarian support to Tonga that included the delivery of humanitarian supplies by Australian Defence Force C-17 within 24 hours of the storm hitting.  Australia's overall package of assistance helped address immediate needs, assisted people to return to their homes, reconnected power throughout Tongatapu, and provided support to the island of 'Eua, which was also badly affected by the cyclone. Australia is also supporting longer-term efforts by the Tonga Government to re-establish schooling, rebuild water supplies and repair or rebuild critical infrastructure.

CARE Australia

CARE Australia’s response project is delivering shelter, protection, and water sanitation and hygiene activities to 4,250 people. This aid supports the immediate needs of 850 of the most severely affected households across 33 communities, and encourages the participation and inclusion of women, girls and other marginalised groups.  

Activities include support for families rebuilding their homes through the provision of tools, nails, cyclone strapping and guttering. Repair of home guttering is vital in Tonga as most households harvest clean drinking water from the roof. Each family selects the materials they need to rebuild their homes and then expertise is provided to help families rebuild more safely.

With crops damaged and food supplies impacted, the CARE project supports land preparation for rapid replanting through the use of agricultural machinery, the provision of soil, compost and fertiliser and the re-establishment of 14 damaged nurseries to ensure seeds are grown for planting. Finally, the project emphasises inclusion of all community members in decision making, including women, youth, and other vulnerable groups. This is achieved by undertaking a rapid gender analysis and carrying out community consultations in order to better understand how best to support full community participation.

Roof repairs following Tropical Cyclone Gita © CARE Australia

Roof repairs following Tropical Cyclone Gita © CARE Australia

Tonga, 2018Clare Price