Tonga Meteorological Services To Strengthen Media Efforts

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Workshop focusing on improving communications underway

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 20, 2015) – Understanding the role of the Meteorological Service and communicating weather, climate and disaster response information in a manner communities understand, is the focus of a three day workshop that opened at the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) in Vaololoa this morning.

Coordinated by the Tonga Meterological Services and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) the training will strengthen the role of the National Meterological Services and Media in providing correct, timely and meaningful information to the community.

Dr Netatua Pelesikoti-Taufatofua SPREP’s Climate Change Director said they fully understood the important role of communicating information clearly, especially when the information can help build the resilience of island communities. She said they were grateful to the Government of Finland and island member countries for their support in implementing the different phases of this project.

"We are also thankful to the Government of Tonga and the Mo’unga’one community and Ha’apai for their support and participation in this activity."

Cyclone Ian

In January 2014 Cyclone Ian, a Category 5 Tropical Cyclone passed over Tonga leaving behind USD$120 million in damages, one fatality and the complete destruction of 564 homes in the islands of Ha’apai.

While feedback from communities indicated that the Tonga Meteorological Service was successful in sharing climate information, forecasting the cyclone and distributing warnings to residents, the Tonga Met Service said this was one event that pushed them to strengthen their communication skills.

Forecast

The Director of Tonga’s Meteorological Service ‘Ofa Fa’anunu said they wanted to do what they could to ensure that they convey weather, climate and disaster response information in a manner communities understand.

"Over this training we are going to look at language used and how to share information in an approach that communities are comfortable with and are able to respond to properly."

During a panel discussion, ‘Ofa said the Government of Tonga would be undertaking a big project amounting to $16.5 million pa’anga to be jointly funded by the World Bank and a government loan aimed to improve early warnings and work in regards to natural disasters.

"Our service will also have to move forward to what is called impact forecasting which will provide more information on what can happen. For example, if it is a Category 3 cyclone the information can say whether it can destroy houses or not, and what kind of damage there might be to crops," he said.

‘Ofa said there was a lot of work to be done under this project, which would also include the need for terms to be changed to meet the needs of the community, he said.

Media Guide

SPREP expected that after the training a Media Guide would be provided to the Tonga Meteorological Service to assist with their future media and communications activities

Also attending are representatives from Mo’unga’one Island, Ha’apai, town officers, Tonga Red Cross, Tonga Meteorological Services, government ministries and local media.

The training held across 14 different Pacific island countries is part of a Finland-Pacific project on ‘reduced vulnerability of Pacific Island communities’ livelihoods due to the effects of climate change’ implemented by SPREP and funded by the Government of Finland.

Tonga is the fifth country for this training after Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tuvalu.

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