In the late afternoon of Jan. 14, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano — located about 30 kilometres southeast of Tonga's Fonuafo'ou island — erupted, shooting ash and destructive tsunami waves toward the tiny South Pacific Island. 

The unprecedented weather event, now considered the world's largest underwater volcanic eruption in three decades, severed the single cable that connects Tonga to the outside world, effectively removing all internet and phone communication for the nation's 105,000 people. 

As a result, information on the true extent of the damage and how the world could best help was significantly delayed. 

Now, over a week later, details are starting to emerge slowly. 

At the same time, a series of humanitarian organisations have united to ensure those who generously feel inclined to help do so in a way that doesn’t cause more harm than good. The organisations, including the Australian Council for International Development and the World Food Programme, have urged those with good intentions to steer clear of sending food and other goods.

"An influx of goods arrives [at the] port. With limited hands to help, containers build up and clog the port, blocking vital aid, overwhelming and hampering the response effort,” they explained. “This can be devastating for a Pacific Island Country — storage fees in ports alone can cost millions — money that could have been spent on relief and rebuilding.”

Below, we've compiled the best ways to donate in both an effective and responsible manner.

CARE Australia

CARE Australia has set up a Tonga Volcano and Tsunami Emergency Appeal.

"CARE Australia will not be sending any international staff to Tonga,” the organisation said. “Our approach is to support local organisations to respond, and our partners MORDI Tonga Trust and Talitha Project are already well placed to reach the communities with whom they are already working. Keeping the response locally led will also help limit the potential spread of COVID-19 to Tonga, which currently has no cases of the coronavirus on any of its islands.”

The Australian Red Cross 

The Australian Red Cross is currently requesting donations to its International Disaster Fund, which it will use to “help support the Tonga Red Cross as it works to provide access to safe drinking water and provide essential relief items to those who have lost their homes.”

Donations can be made at

Save the Children

Save the Children is likewise working to respond to the crisis. The organisation in Tonga has vowed to support the Ministry of Education to deliver AU$1 million for a distance-learning scheme that plans to utilise technology to reach remote populations. 

Save the Children New Zealand has launched a dedicated, one-off emergency Tongan appeal.


Oxfam currently runs two programs locally in Tonga: the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene program and the Food Security and Livelihoods Program. The organisation also works closely with the Tonga National Youth Council, Tonga National Council of Churches, and the Civil Society Forum of Tonga, among other local groups.

"Currently, our biggest concern is the volcanic ash that is snowing down on the Tongan kingdom, polluting drinking water,” the group explains. “We want to be ready to act and work with our local partners to help provide clean, safe drinking water. That’s where you can help today, to bring clean water to Tonga when they urgently need it.”

You can donate here.

Act for Peace

Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, works alongside the Tonga National Council of Churches. The group is also a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct and Fundraising Charter, which commits international aid and development organisations to “good standards of governance, transparency, accountability, and effectiveness.”

Act for Peace has set up a dedicated Tonga emergency page, which can be found here.


UNICEF has already shipped 44 pallets of emergency supplies from Brisbane to Tonga. Among the shipments are 1,000 water and sanitation kits, water testing equipment, and recreational kits for children to aid their mental and emotional recovery. 

You can donate to UNICEF’s Tonga Recovery Appeal here.

GoFundMe: Pita Taufatofua

Pita Taufatofua, the flag bearer representing Tonga at the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, has established a GoFundMe page. The taekwondo and cross-country skiing athlete has so far helped raise almost $600,000. 

You can help Taufatofua achieve his $1 million goal by donating here.

Global Citizen Life

Demand Equity

How to Help Tonga After the Devastating Volcano Eruption and Tsunami

By Madeleine Keck