Habitat for Humanity New Zealand has handed over the keys for eight newly built homes to Tongan families affected by 2022’s devastating Hunga TongaHunga Ha’apai earthquake and tsunami.
The homes have been built on higher ground on the islands of Tongatapu and Nomuka. Work on Nomuka was hampered by the island’s remoteness and the difficulty of getting materials there.
“This project represents shelter, hope, resilience and the promise of a fresh start for families who endured the catastrophic events of last year,” CEO of Habitat for Humanity in New Zealand, Alan Thorp, said.
Thorp said the houses were designed to resist cyclones and to be weather resistant. This would ensure families were more prepared to face harsh weather conditions in the future.
One of the recipients of the new homes, ‘Eseta, said having her family’s new Habitat home built on higher ground was reassuring.
‘Eseta, who lost her home and belongings in the disaster, said that seeing her home destroyed was devastating. As a single mother her one income would not have stretched far enough to build a new home for her family.
Sione, a community member who moved into a new Habitat home in Popua, said that because his family lived in a low-lying area, they were prone to natural disasters.
“When the tsunami came the water level came up to our home,” Sione said.
“I have a disability and we have our many grandchildren living with us. With a new home that is also disability friendly, this is much easier for me and my wheelchair.”
Habitat partnered with the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology and the New Zealand-based building company Home Foundation to erect the homes and increase the skills of local youth.
Students from the Institute gained building practice which will strengthen the ability of the community to withstand future extreme weather and disaster events.
Habitat worked with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, public supporters, and local organisations. Habitat New Zealand has a long history of collaborating with Pacific communities to improve access to decent housing.
World Tsunami Awareness Day
This Sunday, November 5, is World Tsunami Awareness Day.
According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction the Pacific is one of the most tsunami-affected regions in the world. The January 2022 Tonga tsunami event, triggered by a Hunga Tonga- Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcanic eruption, demonstrated the many risks that such events pose to communities. For instance, the eruption and tsunami disrupted submarine fibre-optic cable was affected. The telecommunication outage experienced in Tonga compounded the challenges faced by affected communities, hampering the co-ordination of relief efforts, and making it close to impossible to send vital updates.
The UNDRR said that by 2030 half the world’s population would live in coastal areas exposed to flooding, storms, and tsunamis, the UNDRR said. Increasing regional support to developing countries would help ensure that all communities at risk of tsunami were prepared.
For more information
Habitat for Humanity New Zealand
World Tsunami Day 2023