A reconstruction and recovery aid package for Tonga worth $16 million will be added to the $3 million Australia has donated for Operation Tonga Assist 2022 following a volcano eruption earlier this year.
Tonga suffered economic damage totalling an estimated US$90.4 million following the eruption of a submarine volcano that caused a Tsunami and ashfall in January.
Foreign minister Marise Payne announced the aid money in a joint statement with minister for international development and the Pacific Zed Seselja on Friday. She said the aid for Tonga was accompanied by a delivery of 54,990 Pfizer vaccines (in partnership with UNICEF) to support local COVID-19 health response in March.
“We continue to coordinate our assistance closely with New Zealand, Japan, United Kingdom, the United States, India, France and Fiji.
“Our collective approach has strengthened cooperation on humanitarian and disaster response in the region,” Payne said.
The latest aid money addressed areas of ongoing need in Tonga, the foreign minister added, and was aligned with a plan developed by the Tongan government partners’ Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Volcanic Eruption and Tsunami Disaster Recovery and Resilience Building Plan 2022-25.
In addition to pandemic health measures, target areas for the aid money include the rebuilding of critical infrastructure including telecommunications, livelihoods, and key government services.
The Department of Foreign Affairs’ engagement program, known as Pacific Step-up, also underpinned Australia’s work helping with the post-volcano and tsunami recovery.
“The government of Tonga has demonstrated strong leadership following this natural disaster and COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are coordinating our efforts with Tonga’s reconstruction priorities and their work managing the recent COVID-19 outbreak,” Payne said.