Save the Children calls for Kiwis to help support Tongan families in need

Save the Children New Zealand has today launched an emergency appeal to raise much-needed funds for children and their families in Tonga affected by Saturday’s volcanic eruption.

At least three people have been killed and 50 homes destroyed following the eruption of an underwater volcano near Tonga on Saturday that triggered a tsunami, with parts of the South Pacific archipelago still cut off from all communication.

Up to 80,000 people, including at least 28,000 children, are estimated to have been affected across the country which has a population of about 100,000. Extensive damage has been reported across the western side of the Tongatapu Islands, ‘Eua and Ha’apai Islands with most displaced families staying with relatives.

Save the Children New Zealand Chief Executive Heidi Coetzee says money raised will go towards providing cash support for families, alongside setting up temporary learning spaces and child safe spaces to minimise disruption to children’s education.

“As we begin to get a clearer picture of the devastation in Tonga, our concerns are growing for children and families affected. Our teams are ready to respond and we are calling on our Kiwi supporters to help those in need.

“As Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said an ‘unprecedented disaster’ has hit Tonga. As one of our closest Pacific neighbours, we stand with Tonga and ask New Zealanders to please give generously to our appeal.”   

The volcano erupted about 65km (40 miles) north of the capital Nuku'alofa, and triggered a tsunami which flooded parts of the archipelago. The eruption emitted a plume of ash, steam and gas, rising approximately 20km above the volcano, and blanketing parts of the country with ash and smoke. 

In addition to concerns for the welfare of families who lost their homes, there is an immediate threat to the health of children and their parents due to ash pollution in drinking water. Authorities have already reported some water sources being contaminated by ash, which can contain heavy metals like copper, cadmium and arsenic.

In Tonga, Save the Children supports the Ministry of Education to deliver a $1 million (AUD) distance learning program utilising technology to reach outlying islands and remote populations. Leveraging existing programme staff in-country and based on on-going needs assessments, Save the Children’s emergency response will work to ensure children can access education and safe spaces in this time of disaster.

Donate to Save the Children’s emergency appeal for Tonga now.