A $16 million reconstruction and recovery assistance package for Tonga will add to the $3 million Australia donated for Operation Tonga Assist 2022 following a volcanic eruption earlier this year.
Tonga suffered economic damage totaling around US$90.4 million following the eruption of an undersea volcano that caused a tsunami and ashfall in January.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced the aid money on Friday in a joint statement with International Development and Pacific Minister Zed Seselja. She said the aid to Tonga was accompanied by a delivery of 54,990 Pfizer vaccines (in partnership with UNICEF) to support the local health response to COVID-19 in March.
“We continue to coordinate our assistance closely with New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, France and Fiji.
“Our collective approach has strengthened cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the region,” Payne said.
The latest aid funds met Tonga’s ongoing needs, the foreign minister added, and were aligned with a plan developed by 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 aid money include rebuilding critical infrastructure, including telecommunications, livelihoods and key government services.
The Foreign Office’s engagement programme, known as the Pacific Stepping Up, also underpinned Australia’s work to help with volcano and tsunami recovery.
“The Government of Tonga has shown strong leadership in the wake of this natural disaster and the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We are coordinating our efforts with Tonga’s reconstruction priorities and their work in managing the recent outbreak of COVID-19,” Payne said.
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