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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (September 30, 1998 - PACNEWS/Amy)---People in Tonga's northern Ha'apai islands have been experiencing a prolonged drought for more than two months, which has created serious water shortages and health consequences.

The islands most affected are Lofanga, Ha‘afeva, Kauvai, Pukotala, ‘Uiha and Felemes.

Niu‘ui Hospital has reported numerous cases of diarrhea and vomiting, prompting local health authorities to warn people to boil all drinking water.

Meanwhile, Tonga's Ministry of Agriculture has initiated a program to help the drought-affected squash pumpkin growers in Tongatapu's eastern district and the Vava‘u islands. The Ministry is permitting farmers to use Kingdom-owned tractors in an effort to encourage the planting of different crops to stimulate revenue.

Under the project, growers will receive two hours of free tractor use on their plots where a possible new cash crop can be planted.

The move is designed to encourage growers not to withdraw from farming in future years.

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