US$19 Million for Safer Schools and Improved Emergency Early Warning Systems in Tonga

Additional financing from the World Bank will strengthen Tonga’s resilience to future disasters and climate-related emergencies

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2022 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$19.5 million (approximately TOP46 million) in additional funding for disaster recovery and resilience projects in Tonga. This includes work to bolster Tonga’s ongoing recovery from January’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami, work to strengthen emergency early warning systems and efforts to make Tongan schools safer and stronger in the face of future disasters.

“Since 2018, natural disasters such as Tropical Cyclone’s Gita and Harold, as well as the recent Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption have caused an estimated US$457 million in damages and loss for Tonga,” said Lasse Melgaard, World Bank Resident Representative for the South Pacific. “This has had an immense impact on Tongans, and we are pleased to continue to stand with Tonga and support recovery efforts.

“Yet we know Tonga remains at significant risk of climate related disasters, so it is essential we continue to strengthen early warning systems and invest in stronger, safer infrastructure for students and communities across the country.”

The new funding will add US$14.5 million to the Tonga Safe and Resilient Schools Project, bringing the total project to US$29.5 million. This will further support the Tongan Government’s ongoing repair, recovery, and reconstruction efforts for schools impacted by the volcanic eruption and tsunami. It will also increase investments in stronger building materials, better designs, and improved maintenance of schools. This will better protect schools from future disasters and climate events and ensure Tongan children don’t lose valuable learning time following a disaster.

Additionally, the new funding will also contribute a further US$5 million to the Tonga component of the Pacific Resilience Program (PREP) – bringing the project to a total of US$39 million – to further strengthen emergency early warning systems and improve disaster preparedness. Since it began in Tonga in 2015, PREP has already provided extensive disaster response training for government staff and supported the construction and opening of two new Emergency Operations Centers – one in Ha’apai and another in Vava’u. These centers – and the training of the staff who operate them – were critical to the immediate response to January’s volcano and tsunami; and keeping remote locations in contact with the government and communicating the most critical support needed.

“Tonga has been hit by multiple disasters in recent years; the January volcanic eruption and tsunami, and the first community transmission of COVID-19 in February 2022. The recovery from the volcano alone will cost at least US$165 million, or around 33 percent of Tonga’s GDP,” explained Tonga’s Minister for Finance, the Hon. Tatafu Moeaki. “We are grateful for this support from the World Bank that will help us to not only recover but also to build the ongoing resilience of Tongan communities to both climate and natural disasters.”

Additional financing for both projects is from a combination of the International Development Association (IDA)’s Crisis Response Window and the Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands Umbrella Facility Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

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