WASHINGTON D.C., May 29, 2014 –Today the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved US$12 million in grants and low-interest credits from the International Development Association’s (IDA) Crisis Response Window to support the Cyclone Ian Reconstruction and Climate Resilience Project. This project will help rebuild and repair hundreds of homes in Tonga and restore critical community facilities like markets, health centers and schools that were badly damaged by Tropical Cyclone Ian.
The Category 5 Cyclone, which passed directly over Tonga’s Ha’apai Island Group on January 11, 2014, was the most powerful storm ever recorded in the country, with winds of over 200km per hour. The disaster had a devastating impact on the people of Ha’apai. Tragically, one person died and 14 were injured. The cyclone also caused significant damage to people’s homes and agriculture – the main livelihood activity in the area – and hundreds of families were relocated to evacuation centers and emergency shelters.
A World Bank assessment estimated total physical damages and economic losses from the disaster at US$50 million, which is 11 percent of the country’s GDP.
“This project has been designed to support recovery in Ha’apai, to enable its people to get back on their feet, and ensure communities are better prepared to deal with natural disasters in the future,” said Franz Drees-Gross, World Bank Country Director for the Pacific Islands. “The World Bank is committed to assisting with recovery and reconstruction efforts as effectively and as quickly as possible so that those affected by this tragic event can rebuild their lives.”
The project will help rebuild essential housing for 200 of the poorest and most vulnerable families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged by Cyclone Ian. It will also provide grants, training and advice to an estimated additional 900 affected households who need to undertake repairs or reconstruction, or to retrofit their homes to bring them up to climate-resilient standards, and it includes grants to households that need to improve water and sanitation facilities.
In addition the project will reconstruct and climate-proof critical community infrastructure such as the Lifuka market in Pangai, which is a hub for the people of Ha’apai to do business and sell their produce.
The project will also map coastal hazards and risks and provide training for tradespeople, local contractors, community leaders and others to help them plan and build infrastructure that is more resilient to extreme weather events, such as earthquakes and cyclones, to reduce risks for the future.
The Kingdom of Tonga is made up of 169 islands in the South Pacific and is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to impacts from climate change and natural disasters. According to World Bank models, the country incurs on average US$15.5 million in losses each year due to earthquakes and tropical cyclones.
The Project is being funded with US$12 million from IDA ($6 million as grants and $6 million as low-interest credits), with an additional US$1.8 million grant from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.
The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Infrastructure in partnership with NGOs working in Ha’apai, with project preparations undertaken in close coordination with affected communities and local and national governments. The first works are expected to commence in July 2014.