Since the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’Apai volcano and subsequent tsunami, communications remain disrupted across Tonga.

Many loved ones living abroad have been fearing for the welfare of their relatives. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is supporting the Tongan Red Cross Society (TRCS) in reconnecting families after this devastating natural disaster.

Since Thursday 20 January, over 140 Tongan residents have had the opportunity to make calls to their loved ones overseas. TRCS volunteers are offering satellite ‘Safe and Well’ phone calls to those affected by the volcano eruption and its aftermath to call out to family abroad, at no cost to themselves. These brief calls provide much-needed relief to those who have been unable to contact their family members for a number of days.

Vincent Ochilet, ICRC Head of the Regional Delegation in the Pacific, acknowledges the importance of this communication, stating, “The power of speaking to a loved one during a trying time cannot be underestimated. The TRCS have seen many tears in the past few days, as people hear the voices of family for the first time since the eruption and subsequent tsunami.”

For those relatives overseas who have not yet been able to connect with loved ones in Tonga, the ICRC is coordinating the Anxious for News programme through local National Societies throughout the region and beyond. Those wanting to contact someone in Tonga are encouraged to reach out to their own National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society (Australian Red Cross, Fiji Red Cross Society, New Zealand Red Cross/Ripeka Whero Aotearoa, etc.).

The ICRC Delegation in Suva, Fiji, will ensure these requests reach the TRCS so they can locate those who have family searching for them, as part of our Restoring Family Links programme. This programme, run by the ICRC in partnership with National Societies around the globe, has allowed loved ones all over the world to reconnect during disasters and armed conflicts.

‘Aloma ‘Akauola, of the TRCS, is optimistic about the work being done in Tonga. “The TRCS is aware that Tongan people all over the world are eager to reconnect with their families, especially those in Ha’apai and Vava’u, and we are working closely with the ICRC to make this happen. We have been heartened to see the resilience of the community and are grateful to be able to reunite people with their families via our Safe and Well calls.”

The ICRC is proud to support the TRCS and the work they have been doing for the community since the tsunami on the 15th January. As the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent and National Societies send supplies to replenish current stock, the TRCS have delivered prepositioned essential items to over 170 families and will continue providing relief and recovery assistance now and in the coming months.