Lives Lost and Homes Destroyed

Up to 80,000 people, including at least 28,000 children, are estimated to have been affected across Tonga following the eruption of an underwater volcano on January 15, 2022. The volcanic erruption also triggered a tsunami.

Extensive damage has been reported across the western side of the Tongatapu Islands, ‘Eua and Ha’apai Islands. The eruption also emitted a plume of ash, steam and gas, blanketing parts of the country with ash and smoke. 

Save the Children is shipping critical supplies to Tonga to support recovery efforts and get children back to school. Your donation today to the Children's Emergency Fund can help communities become more resilient so that each time a crisis happens they are stronger, more likely to survive and recover more quickly. 

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 Here's What You Need to Know About the Tonga Volcano

An eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, about 40 miles north of Tonga’s capital of Nuku’alofa, caused a four-foot tsunami at 5:30pm local time Saturday, January 15, 2022. A tidal wave was recorded in Fiji and tsunami warnings were issued for Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Australia. 

How many people have been impacted by the Tonga volcano?

About 84,000 people — more than 80 percent of Tonga’s population — have been impacted by the volcano’s eruption. Sadly, at least three people have been killed. 

In addition to the destruction of homes, the Tonga volcano has resulted in a lack of access to safe drinking water, the effect of ashfall on crops and the potential of acid rain are also putting people at risk.

What dangers do children face as a result of the Tonga volcano?

Families in Tonga are at risk of exposure to unsafe air and water due to ash and smoke from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano.  Authorities have reported some water sources being contaminated by ash, which can contain heavy metals like copper, cadmium and arsenic.

How as the Tonga volcano disrupted children's education?

Every single school across Tonga has been impacted by the volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami. Children in Tonga were due to return to school on January 31 but the damage and destruction to schools will undoubtedly delay the resumption of learning. 

On the main islands of Tongatapu, Eua and Ha’apai, communities have rallied to clear the three inches of sand and volcanic dust blanketing homes, roads and schools. Curriculum materials including textbooks and note pads have been damaged beyond use, along with class furniture.

Tonga Country Lead for Save the Children, Maa'imoa Mafile'o, said: “It is very important for our kids to be back at school to cope, not only to cover the syllabus, but also to talk with others about how they have survived in the face of the tsunami.” 

"Water supplies for every school is a problem. Children need drinking water to be able to go to school.”

“For families forced to relocate from one island to another, it will take time for the kids to settle in. They will be struggling to get back to school, even to have school materials for the children and school uniforms.”

Is Save the Children responding to the Tonga volcano?

Save the Children stands ready to support the people of Tonga in whatever way we can. We are shipping critical supplies, including chalkboards, schools bags and large tents to be used as temporary classrooms, to Tonga to support the race to get schools ready for the return to learning. 

Our teams are also establishing temporary learning spaces coupled with child-friendly spaces to provide psychosocial support to children impacted by the trauma of the tsunami. We are also working to provide hygiene and dignity kits and other materials to children, cash assistance to affected families, and distance learning.

To mitigate the COVID risk, Save the Children will utilize existing staff in-country and leverage significant regional expertise in education and emergency cash assistance to support children and families in Tonga.

What is Save the Children's history of working in Tonga?

Save the Children has a small presence in Tonga, and more significant staff and resources in Fiji, Vanuatu and throughout the region. 

In Tonga, Save the Children supports the Ministry of Education to deliver a $1 million distance learning program utilizing technology to reach outlying islands and remote populations.

 

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