Tonga cyclone victims need more food, housing
A Peoples Representative for Ha'apai in Tonga where a category-five cyclone displaced 5,000 people in January says residents do not have enough food and up to 200 families are still living in tents.
A People's Representative for Ha'apai in Tonga where a category-five cyclone displaced 5,000 people in January says residents do not have enough food and up to 200 families are still living in tents.
Mo'ale Finau, who is a member of the opposition Democratic Party, says he is proposing a resolution in Parliament for the remainder of the relief fund to be spent on relief now, and not on a future cyclone.
Mary Baines filed this report.
Mr Finau says there is still one million US dollars in the Cyclone Ian relief fund, but it's not being used for the victims in Ha'apai.
MO'ALE FINAU: They will put the million dollars back into the general fund of the government, to be used some other time, perhaps if there will be a cyclone next year. But the Ha'apai people are not happy because that money is supposed to be used now.
Mr Finau says while the government has done its best in most areas, some aspects of the relief effort are lacking. He says not a single destroyed house has been re-built yet, and the people of Ha'apai need more food, as between 85 to 100 percent of crops were destroyed in some areas.
MO'ALE FINAU: The tinned fish were bad, and the rice was expired. So the people of Ha'apai generally are still not happy, you know, they are tired of living in tents, so they just don't know what to do. It's just me, because in a politician in the parliament, that I face the government.
The deputy prime minister, Samiu Vaipulu, is quick to defend the government's assistance.
SAMIU VAIPULU: I've been in it from day one, some of the people that are complaining were never there, before 24 hours I was in Ha'apai already. The achievements the government has done for the past six months has been fantastic, it has been tremendous.
Mr Vaipulu says the reconstruction of housing will begin next month. He says when this timing is compared to Niue's rebuild after Cyclone Heta in 2005, which took three years, the Tongan government's efforts are impressive. Mr Vaipulu says it has provided support for agriculture in Ha'apai, but a recent report shows only a quarter of people in some areas used this assistance.
SAMIU VAIPULU: We hired tractors, ploghed the land and provided planting material like seeds and things. And that is the report, it was only 25 percent of the people that used that.
Mr Vaipulu says the government is sending a team to Ha'apai this week to see if assistance is being used wisely, what more is needed for reconstruction, and if the people do in fact need more food. The head of Tonga's Red Cross, Sione Taumoefolau, says so far there have not been good assessments of what is really needed in Ha'apai. He says while the government put assistance into ploughing land to have it ready to grow crops, many landowners were left not knowing how to best use it, and need more food.
SIONE TAUMOEFOLAU: Not talking about tinned fish or tinned meat, but they are talking about the normal Tongan crops that they do not have enough at the moment, even though there is a lot of contribution from Vava'u and Tongatapu, it's still not enough. The government are thinking of providing another distribution of foods like rice or flour. But it will be like this before the end of this year.
Mr Taumoefolau says there have been many delays involved in rebuilding houses. He says that is because the government decided to rebuild more robust, permanent housing, instead of provisional accommodation.
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