Humanitarian disaster in Tonga brings opportunity through access to health care

  • In February, Tonga was hit by tropical cyclone Gita, the worst cyclone to hit the island in over 60 years, causing wide-spread damage.
    In February, Tonga was hit by tropical cyclone Gita, the worst cyclone to hit the island in over 60 years, causing wide-spread damage.
  • Our Member Association, the Tonga Family Health Association, responded with emergency outreach teams. TFHA's clinic in Folaha village offers sexual and reproductive health care to the local community.
    Our Member Association, the Tonga Family Health Association, responded with emergency outreach teams. TFHA's clinic in Folaha village offers sexual and reproductive health care to the local community.
  • Travelling to communities affected by the cyclone, the teams provide life-saving reproductive health care and information. For some island communities this can be their first time accessing this type of health care.
    Travelling to communities affected by the cyclone, the teams provide life-saving reproductive health care and information. For some island communities this can be their first time accessing this type of health care.
  • TFHA Programme Manager, Katherine Mafi, runs an information session about sexual health for local young people. Access to remote communities provides response teams the opportunity to scan for signs of gender-based violence – instability exacerbates risk of violence for many women in humanitarian crisis.
    TFHA Programme Manager, Katherine Mafi, runs an information session about sexual health for local young people. Access to remote communities provides response teams the opportunity to scan for signs of gender-based violence – instability exacerbates risk of violence for many women in humanitarian crisis.
  • TFHA nurse, Vika Finau, is part of the emergency response team. Often emergencies create opportunities that wouldn't have been there previously. Vika encourages the women she meets to have a pap smear.
    TFHA nurse, Vika Finau, is part of the emergency response team. Often emergencies create opportunities that wouldn't have been there previously. Vika encourages the women she meets to have a pap smear.
  • “The challenge is encouraging them to come forward, they keep hesitating because of the procedure. They have to expose their genital area. Twenty women might agree to come for pap smear and at the end only nine or ten will come forward,” says Vika. Eta waits for  her first pap smear at the Eua Hospital.
    “The challenge is encouraging them to come forward, they keep hesitating because of the procedure. They have to expose their genital area. Twenty women might agree to come for pap smear and at the end only nine or ten will come forward,” says Vika. Eta waits for her first pap smear at the Eua Hospital.
  • Often equipment can be scarce. In the absence of a portable medical light, nurse Vika, demonstrates the power of the torch she uses for pap smears.
    Often equipment can be scarce. In the absence of a portable medical light, nurse Vika, demonstrates the power of the torch she uses for pap smears.
  • A local Eua woman has her first pap-smear test at Eua Hospital.
    A local Eua woman has her first pap-smear test at Eua Hospital.
  • During humanitarian crises, tailored dignity kits given to women offer a vital source of simple hygiene and protection items. For TFHA staff, these exchanges also offer a chance to discuss contraception, STIs and HIV and pap smears in the privacy of their own home.
    During humanitarian crises, tailored dignity kits given to women offer a vital source of simple hygiene and protection items. For TFHA staff, these exchanges also offer a chance to discuss contraception, STIs and HIV and pap smears in the privacy of their own home.
  • TFHA Programme Manager, Katherine Mafi, hands over a dignity kit to Etka Lotaki on Eua who lost her home in the cyclone. “Coming face to face with the recipient of a dignity kit is quite an experience, it's a magic moment watching these women," says Katherine.
    TFHA Programme Manager, Katherine Mafi, hands over a dignity kit to Etka Lotaki on Eua who lost her home in the cyclone. “Coming face to face with the recipient of a dignity kit is quite an experience, it's a magic moment watching these women," says Katherine.

Following the devastation wrecked by Tropical Cyclone Gita on the island of Kingdon of Tonga, the Tonga Family Health Association deployed an emergency response team. The team was able to bring vital sexual and reproductive health care to local communities. By taking services to the people, the team has been able to expand the types of care that many women would not readily access including pap smears and the opportunity to raise awareness around gender-based violence.  

Combining service delivery, as well as information, is part of our tailored approach to humanitarian crises; ensuring we meet need, wherever it is, whoever requires it, for as long as they want it. 

Photography © IPPF/Alana Holmberg