The Kingdom of Tonga, in the South Pacific, is known as the ‘Friendly Islands’ because of its rich culture and generous, warm-hearted people. Unfortunately, it is also known for being the country with the third highest risk for disasters in the world, given its extremely high exposure to cyclones, earthquakes, flooding, and the impacts of sea level rise. When disasters—now exacerbated by the effects of climate change—strike, the impacts can be devastating and widespread, affecting families’ livelihoods, healthcare, and education.
In February 2018, Tonga was hit by Category Four Tropical Cyclone Gita, which brought with it 220 kilometer-an-hour winds. The impact of the cyclone was massive, flattening homes and buildings, destroying schools, churches, and wiping out farms and livestock, leaving thousands of families’ livelihoods in tatters.
IDA’s Crisis Response Window was able to rapidly deliver emergency funds to assist Cyclone Gita disaster response and recovery initiatives. Further assistance was also made available through the Pacific Resilience Program (PREP), funded by IDA and the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. PREP seeks to strengthen Tonga’s resilience to natural disasters and climate change. The program began in 2015, but following the impacts of Cyclone Gita, the project received additional funding to support the reconstruction of schools—109 of Tonga’s 150 schools, home to 23,000 students, were impacted by the cyclone. This work has seen repairs and rebuilds of schools to higher resilience standards, to better defend them from future storms, cyclones and earthquakes.