The Fiji Times » ICRC reconnects Tongan families after natural disaster

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is helping the Tongan Red Cross Society (TRCS) reconnect families After the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’Apai volcano eruption and subsequent tsunami, communications remain disrupted across Tonga.

Many relatives living abroad fear for the well-being of their loved ones.

According to an ICRC statement, since Thursday January 20, more than 140 Tongan residents have had the opportunity to phone their relatives abroad.

TRCS volunteers are offering “Safe and Well” satellite phone calls for those affected by the volcano eruption and its aftermath to call family overseas, at no cost to themselves.

These brief calls are bringing much-needed relief to those who have been unable to contact family members for several days.

Vincent Ochilet, head of the ICRC’s regional delegation in the Pacific, recognizes the importance of this communication, saying: “The power of talking to a loved one during a difficult time cannot be underestimated. The TRCS has seen many tears in recent days as people hear the voices of family for the first time since the eruption and subsequent tsunami.

For relatives abroad who have not yet been able to connect with loved ones in Tonga, the ICRC coordinates the Anxious for News program through local National Societies throughout the region and beyond. Those wishing to contact someone in Tonga are encouraged to contact their own National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society (Australian Red Cross, Fiji Red Cross Society, New Zealand Red Cross/Ripeka Whoro Aotearoa, etc).

The ICRC delegation in Suva, Fiji, will ensure that these requests reach the TRCS so that they can locate those whose families are looking for them, as part of our program to restore family links.

This programme, run by the ICRC in partnership with National Societies around the world, has enabled loved ones around the world to reconnect during disasters and armed conflicts.

‘Aloma ‘Akauola of TRCS is optimistic about the work being done in Tonga.

“TRCS is aware that Tongans around the world are eager to reconnect with their families, especially those in Ha’apai and Vava’u, and we are working closely with the ICRC to make this happen. We have been encouraged to see the resilience of the community and are grateful to be able to reunite people with their families through our Safe and Well calls.

The ICRC is proud to support the TRCS and the work it has been doing for the community since the January 15 tsunami.

As the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies send supplies to replenish the current stock, the TRCS has delivered pre-positioned essential items to more than 170 families and will continue to provide relief and recovery now and in the months to come.