SOUTH PACIFIC BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
On 11 January 2014 Cyclone Ian ripped through the Pacific Island nation of Tonga, devastating the Ha’apai island group. The cyclone completely destroyed more than 1,100 buildings in Ha’apai, and many more structures sustained major damage, including 13 primary and secondary schools. Electricity, water and communications infrastructure, as well as vegetation and crops, were severely impacted.
South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) Tonga, and its clients were also affected. Approximately one-third of SPBD Tonga’s clients on Ha’apai have significant damage to their homes, with the remainder of clients also directly impacted. SPBD’s Ha’apai branch office was completely destroyed. The staff has already moved into a temporary office space. SPBD staff and their families were also directly impacted by the storm.
Homes and lives must now be rebuilt, and a local economy made up of thousands of micro-enterprises also needs to be rebuilt.
Since the disaster, SPBD has been focused on providing relief and assistance for those in need on Ha’apai. In the first weeks we have:
• Suspended all loan collections for SPBD clients on Ha’apai for 5 weeks (minimum) – loan officers communicated this to clients within hours after the storm,
• Provided immediate relief (food, water, blankets) to staff on Ha’apai and all of their family members,
• Conducted a preliminary damage assessment of 269 clients on Ha’apai to survey damage to homes and businesses and to determine clients’ needs for goods/relief supplies,
•Secured a new office space and
• Delivered relief kits to all 269 SPBD members consisting of such items as water, tinned fish, breakfast crackers, laundry soap, cooking utensils, towels and a cash component to purchase other needed goods such as diapers, yeast and oil.
SPBD Tonga is now in the process of:
• Restructuring existing loans for clients on Ha’apai.
• Providing new emergency reconstruction loans for investment into re-building microenterprises and homes.