In just over 72 hours Tropical Cyclone Gita has swept across islands of the Pacific causing substantial damage to homes,
livelihoods, places of refuge, and places of prayer. This is certainly the case in Tonga where Gita made landfall late
12 February as a category 4 tropical storm. Winds raged between 110 and 275 kmph causing waves over 11 metres tall.
For many years, Caritas has partnered with organisations in Tonga, and around the Pacific. Part of our efforts have been
connecting with teams on the ground like Amelia Ma’afu (pictured), Caritas Tonga Programmes Officer, to gather
information on the needs of communities. Because of this ongoing relationship, Ms Ma’afu and the Caritas teams has
started distributing prepositioned stock.
Much remains to be done as Tonga continues to support those affected by the Tropical Cyclone. Caritas Aotearoa New
Zealand has committed an initial $10k NZD solidarity grant to help the communities rebuild. Currently, Caritas
committees based in villages and communities around Tonga are conducting initial assessments to determine what kind of
assistance is needed moving forward.
Flooding is likely to have affected many homes and services cut. Access to potable water could be an issue. Many houses
in rural areas are reliant on bore water or collected rainwater. It is likely that this will have been damaged or
inundated with flood water.
Caritas Humanitarian Response Coordinator Mark Mitchell says, “With the country already addressing an outbreak of dengue
fever in Tongatapu, the deterioration of sanitation conditions on the island could increase the risk for the spread of
dengue and other vector and water-borne diseases.”
Tropical Cyclone Gita is tracking towards southern portions of Fiji as a category 5, likely to cause significant damage
there as well.
“Every year, the generosity of the Catholic community through our Lenten Appeals have enabled us to responds to the
needs of our sisters and brothers in the Pacific. This includes being able to preposition stock such as tarpaulins for
shelter and hygiene kits. These are much needed supplies for when disaster strikes,” says Director Julianne Hickey.
You can support Caritas’s emergency response work and communities of the Pacific by giving to our annual Lenten appeal
(for global response) or the Pacific Relief Fund online at www.caritas.org.nz/donate