Volcano and Tsunami Emergency Response

Tonga: One year on

Hope delivered for families in Tonga


The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai underwater volcano erupted violently in Tonga on 15 January 2022, sending a plume of ash more than 50 kilometres into the atmosphere. The eruption triggered a 1.2-meter-high tsunami that hit low-lying coastal communities on Tongatapu, ‘Eua and the Ha‘apai Group. It was one of the strongest eruptions in the Polynesian nation in the past three decades.

Thick layers of ash covered the worst affected areas, and flood waters damaged infrastructure, homes and schools. Three people were killed, and 84 per cent of Tonga’s population were affected by the twin disasters, including more than 36,000 children.

UNICEF immediately shipped ten metric tons of emergency supplies to support the most vulnerable children and families. Supplies included water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) kits, jerry cans and buckets, school supplies and recreational kits for children.

The objective was to ensure that children and their families had sufficient access to safe drinking water, a clean and protective environment, essential health services, emotional support and to ensure children did not miss out on their education.

UNICEF supported the Government of Tonga in its overall response with technical expertise on the ground, data collection, and humanitarian cash transfers for families, including people with disabilities.

UNICEF also provided technical and financial support for the design of a joint WASH, Health and Nutrition damage assessment and supported the data analysis and reporting through the Ministry of Health (MoH). These tools helped reveal who needed the most support and what was required.

Just two weeks after the eruption and tsunami, Tonga was hit with a third disaster when the first community transmitted COVID-19 cases were detected - hampering relief efforts.

Cover Image
Publication date

Files available for download