Tongan families remain resilient post-Gita

By Talisa Kupenga

Tonga will receive $10mil in funding from New Zealand for recovery post-Gita, the worst cyclone to ravage the region in 60 years. $7mil is allocated for schools and $3mil for Tonga’s electricity network.

Talita Kafoa’s family of eleven has called a tent home for the past three weeks.

But because of overcrowding, she, her husband and their four children often stay at the nearby church.

“It is hard right now. Especially with trying to access water and food,” says Kafoa.

Medical Outreach Director Dr Lemisio Saale and his teams have been delivering medical aid on the ground.  He says health issues have been managed well but people are still needing resources like food and water.

“Generally we had dengue fever in the island and we still see ongoing dengue.  We see food-bourne related diseases, diarrhoea and typhoid was here and we’re hoping that won’t come up again.”

His team also conduct mental health screening to assist those experiencing post-traumatic stress.

Pasifika Medical Association’s Dr Staverton Kautoke says, “In the first few weeks you have what they call the heroic stage and the honeymoon phase where people are quite heroic helping each other out and their families but after at least 6-8 weeks the reality starts kicking in and people start to realise that they don’t actually have anything.”

Fasi Government Primary School was one of 29 schools subject to major cyclone damage, and despite their tent classroom, children are still eager to learn.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, “My understanding is that [funding] is likely to go directly to go into schooling and education- the ability to rebuild the primary schools and in particularly the secondary schools that have been so badly damaged.”

The next stop on the Pacific mission is the Cook Islands.