REACH service delivery aids Tonga’s recovery efforts
August 9, 2022
Ha’apai, Pangai – It has been seven months since the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption on 15 January 2022 that left behind a trail of devastation for the Kingdom of Tonga. As the country continues its efforts to build back better, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) through its Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) project is supporting the Government of Tonga and non-governmental organizations to deliver crucial services to communities.
As an integrated service delivery platform for rural, remote, and poor communities, the REACH project was customised to respond to the needs of Tonga following the disaster. This entailed holding missions/community outreaches starting in May 2022 to Tongatapu, Ha’apai, ‘Eua, Vava’u and the two Niuas. The services delivered to communities ranged from access to early warning systems, social protection services, birth certificate renewals, marine licensing, firearm inspections, lands and survey services, domestic violence helpline to national identification card renewals, and more.
Psychosocial support was also important and one of the main requests identified as many were affected psychologically and emotionally by the severity of the disaster. Other priorities identified included prevention and response to domestic violence and facilitation of access to justice. It was important for the REACH project to include these support in its community outreach.
Hon. Governor of Ha'apai, Pita Taufatofua (PhD) stated, “I would like to thank you dearly and the REACH team as it is a blessing that you have covered a big part of Ha'apai already, starting from the furthest away from central Ha'apai and from the main CBD (central business district) of Tongatapu, Nomuka being the center of 'Otumu'omu'a, Ha'afeva the center of Vahe Lulunga and Ha'ano the center of Vahe Kauvai.”
The REACH service delivery team, which included more than 17 key stakeholders, was coordinated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs - Women’s Affairs and Gender Equality Division.
“We hope that in the very near future these services re-visit us and this project continues as it is very helpful to us, it was not our fault we lost our IDs, passports and our personal belongings to the tsunami, we hope our government can replace these for free,” stated the District Officer of Nomuka, Mr. Siosaia Hafu Ki Namo Finau.
Following community sessions on early warning systems, one of the participants from Vahe Kauvai, Mr. Ilaiasi Fehoko stated, “I am from Fakakai and we are glad we took part in getting assistance from the Tonga Meteorological Station - Mr. Laitia Fifita, as it is Vahe Kauvai that will bear the force of the cyclonic winds first when they first arrive from our end, that’s why it is important to learn these early warning systems.”
UNDP will balance short-term urgent needs with long-term objectives in its support for Tonga’s recovery efforts. In the first 12 months, UNDP will continue to support the Government of Tonga to alleviate the impact and generate enabling conditions to reduce future disaster risk and adapt to climate change and restore development by building back better, which includes continued delivery of social services through the REACH Project.
“The recovery efforts through the REACH Project will continue to ensure that no one is left behind as we coordinate and assist the Government of Tonga,” said Yemesrach Workie, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji.
She added, “Delivering social services to long-isolated communities will restore confidence and relieve some of the stress brought about by the tsunami and COVID-19 wave.”
The REACH project is an integrated government platform to provide knowledge and awareness raising, and to deliver multi-sectoral government and non-government services to remote and vulnerable populations in Tonga. It aims to enhance citizens’ access to justice, women and family services, and government services with a focus on the populations whose access may be limited such as persons with disabilities, gender-based violence survivors, older persons, and people in remote communities.
The project aims to contribute to Tonga’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Among the 17 Goals, the initiative focuses on Goal 16, which is a commitment to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels; and Goal 5, which is a commitment to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.
The project is funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by UNDP and UN Women.