17 Jan 2014

Mental health services a priority in Tonga - Ministry of Health

6:16 am on 17 January 2014

The Tongan Ministry of Health says providing mental health services to victims of Cyclone Ian is a priority, along with ensuring they have enough food and clean water.

The Director of Health, Dr Siale Akauola, says while the water is clean at evacuation centres, it is working to sanitise water supplies before victims move back into their communities.

Dr Akauola says while the Ministry is focusing on physical health and sanitation issues, about 90 percent of those displaced are being housed in church buildings where they are receiving counselling.

"In terms of psychological, psychosocial care, we are leaving it at the hands of Red Cross, Caritas and other non-government organisations together with church groups. They are looking at post-disaster counselling, while we focus on physical injuries and of course sanitation."

Dr Akauola says staff are spraying for flies and mosquitos to ensure diseases like dengue fever and typhoid do not spread.

He says although a wing of the local hospital was damaged, it now has running water and power and is 85 percent operational.