Tongan authorities scramble to help drought-stricken Ha'apai
Tongan authorities send help to drought-stricken Ha'apai as fears mount that water shortages could spread.
Tongan authorities are scrambling to assist the drought-stricken people in the islands of Ha'apai after it was revealed that most do not have easy access to drinking water.
This week the Governor of Ha'apai expressed concern that residents may start to use water from underground wells despite it not being fit for consumption.
As Koro Vaka'uta reports, help is on the way.
Ha'apai is feeling the brunt of an extended dry season. The head of the Red Cross in Tonga, Sione Taumoefolau, says fresh water availability is at 20% of normal.
SIONE TAUMOEFOLAU: The information what we have at the moment is about 80% of our drinking water has been gone so only 20% left at the moment, but I think the government and also Red Cross will be trying our best to supply whatever the need for the people of Ha'apai.
The Secretary for the Governor of Ha'apai, Kepu Ioane, says the community is coming together with those with water tanks helping others through the struggles.
KEPU IOANE: Most is empty so they are looking for the neighbours or for the one who is remaining. This is true for the whole islands. It's good that, you know, the underground water is fine for cooking and washing and basic sanitation.
Mr Taumoefolau says the issue has been magnified by those still living in makeshift shelters after destructive Cyclone Ian hit at the beginning of this year.
SIONE TAUMOEFOLAU: One of the challenges that we have is most of those beneficiaries, they haven't received any new building after the cyclone. That's another issue. That's why they don't have enough drinking water at home. I think the government now and the World Bank are doing their best to rebuild the whole places.
A high-level meeting on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for supplies and desalination units to be sent. The director of the National Emergency Management Office Leveni 'Aho says machines would be sent via ferry with the possibility of using a Defence Service patrol boat as well. Mr 'Aho says the struggle for water may continue for a while.
LEVENI 'AHO: The long-term forecast for the islands, it's not very bright. This will probably be with us for the next few months so no rain seems to be in the near future. There are also reports from other parts of Vava'u and northern islands of Niua approaching that sort of situation too.
Mr 'Aho says surveyors will be sent to Vava'u and the Niuas to assess the situation. The Ha'apai Governor's Office says a desalination unit provided by the National Youth Congress has arrived and is helping ease the shortage.
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