The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Digicel Tonga signed an agreement last week to partner in the Cash For Work Project in Ha’apai, Tonga following Tropical Cyclone Ian in January 2014.
Under the Post Cyclone Livelihoods Recovery and Cash for Work Project in Ha’apai Tonga, UNDP has been providing assistance to the affected communities to facilitate the transition from emergency relief to longer-term development and sustainability.
This includes the provision of temporary Cash For Work income to disaster affected families to cover immediate financial needs and accelerate the recovery of traditional livelihoods such as handicrafts and agriculture.
The partnership between UNDP and Digicel Tonga will offer the Cash For Work participants especially the most vulnerable such as single mothers, elderly and disabled, mobile money services with zero withdrawal fees, mobile phones and SIM cards and data enabled handsets. Mobile money services will enable participants to receive funds in a timely, efficient and less costly manner.
In the Ha’apai group, there are already a number of registered subscribers for mobile money and infrastructure and awareness of the service is in place. The partnership will also allow Cash for Work participants to use Digicel Tonga’s agent network which include the Tonga Development Bank and the Digicel Flagship Stores among others.
Commenting on the partnership, UN Resident Representative/UNDP Resident Coordinator, Osnat Lubrani noted UNDP’s existing partnerships with Digicel in the Pacific, in the area of financial inclusion, and welcomed this innovative way of reaching people affected by Cyclone Ian.
Digicel Tonga Chief Executive Officer, Jack Bourke said, “Digicel is proud to provide a service that will help reach the people of Ha’apai and rebuild the community’’.
The Government of Tonga estimated total damages of US$29.7 million from Cyclone Ian which caused significant damage to homes, infrastructure and vegetation in 18 villages across six islands in Ha’apai – ‘Uiha, Uoleva, Lifuka, Foa, Ha’ano and Mo’unga’one. Over 5,000 people were directly affected and more than 3,500 people were left homeless. The main livelihoods in Ha’apai are weaving, small-scale tourism, fishing and agriculture and these were severely disrupted by the cyclone.