Anglican Missions launched an appeal following Tropical Cyclone Gita (Category 4) which struck Tonga on the 12th of February. It was the worst storm in 60 years and caused considerable damage to infrastructure, buildings and crops. As with most natural disasters in the Pacific, churches are often first-responders and the Anglican Church is no exception, with church buildings and schools being pressed into use as evacuation centres. The Tongan Prime Minister, Akilisi Pohiva, announced that the state of emergency that has been in force in Tonga since the cyclone struck has been extended for a further four weeks. This is an unusual move and demonstrates that it will take a while for Tonga to get fully back on its feet (for example the cost of damage to the agriculture sector alone is estimated to be in the order of US$152 million).
Recently elected Bishop Afa Vaka said last week that “Tonga is slowly but steadily recovering from the devastation … and that our people are resilient by nature and are slowly picking up the pieces and getting back to a seemingly normal life.” The Bishop has welcomed the Anglican Missions appeal and has suggested the funding be used to specifically rebuild livelihoods. Anglican Missions is working closely with the Diocese of Polynesia, Anglican Board of Missions, Anglican Overseas Aid and other church-based agencies to ensure we are well-joined up and meeting the most critical needs.
A second emergency appeal was launched on the 9th of March following the devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the Highlands Region of Papua New Guinea on 26 February. Over half a million people have been affected, with the earthquake destroying homes and infrastructure, triggering landslides, and affecting water sources. According to the PNG National Disaster Centre, 270,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance (of which 55,000 are children) although this figure is likely to rise as more information from the isolated region becomes available.
At least 100 lost their lives in the original earthquake with an additional 25 estimated to have lost their lives in subsequent aftershocks. As with the response to Cyclone Gita, Anglican Missions is joining forces with Australia’s Anglican Board of Missions to ensure a well-coordinated response. Find out more about the Papua New Guinea appeal here.