The UN Development Programme has committed US$500,000 to support recovery efforts for the Kingdom of Tonga following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai undersea volcano a month ago.
The eruption that happened on the afternoon of 15 January 2022 echoed sonic blasts across the Pacific region and sent volcanic ash cloud and tsunamic waves across neighboring countries. The event caused devastating impacts on Tonga with economic damage worth US$90.4 million, according to the recent assessment report by World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.
As humanitarian aid continues to pour into Tonga, UNDP will complement ongoing efforts and focus on meeting immediate recovery needs as well as resilience-building of most vulnerable segments of the population. A two-phased approach will be used, to balance its support for short-term urgent needs with long-term objectives of building forward better.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, Poasi Tei, who chaired the Tonga Partners Meeting virtually on Wednesday 16 February said, “The Tonga Government acknowledges the ongoing support of UNDP Pacific Office to promote a resilient recovery, which coincides with our efforts to build back better. UNDP’s support is consistent with the objectives of the Government of Tonga in addressing key priority recovery needs. More importantly, we agree with UNDP focus on the social aspects, placing emphasis in psychosocial recovery, particularly for the most vulnerable in terms of gender, youth, elderly and people with disabilities.”
In the first phase which will run over a period of 12 months, UNDP efforts will focus on alleviating the impact and generate enabling conditions to restore normalcy and development, this includes emergency employment activities, livelihoods reactivation, and delivery of social services.
A second set of strategies will take place over a period of three years. Recovery efforts will support corrective measures to reduce existing levels of risks for example, through owner driven safe houses rebuilding and resilient construction of community infrastructure, strengthening anticipatory capacities of local governments and stakeholders, which will foster risk reduction, early warning, and preparedness for future events.
Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative for UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji said, “The recovery efforts will leverage on our ongoing projects at regional and country level. Our portfolio to promote risk informed development, to trigger innovative financial mechanisms for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, to strengthen governance capacities, to expand the provision of social services, among others will bring coherence and integrity under a comprehensive transformative approach to the recovery intervention.”
He added, “We will ensure a ‘leave no one behind’ approach including a gender-based inclusive response that includes cooperation at national and local level.”
Ensuring a ‘Building Forward Better’ process, UNDP will combine immediate early recovery interventions with recovery strategies leading to a mid and long-term resilient development vision with a strong focus on gender equality and social inclusion.