The Kingdom of Tonga is made up of 176 islands with a population of 103,036 people (2011 census) on 36 inhabited islands. The Tonga archipelago has a combined land area of 747 km2 and an EEZ of 649 km2. Tonga has about 17,500 households, of which 77% are rural.
Tonga is exposed to both hydro-meteorological and geological hazards. It is in the cyclone region, averaging three events every two years with severe (category 3–4) cyclones every three to four years. In recent years two cyclones have had impacts on many of the islands of Tonga, with Cyclone Ian causing widespread damage in January 2014 followed by Cyclone Ula which caused minimal damage in early January 2016.
Increasing sea-level rise, extreme precipitation, storm surges, whirlwinds and thunderstorms are causing record flood damages, landslides in the hilly terrains and coastal erosion. Tonga has active terrestrial volcanoes and a seabed region of high submarine volcanic activity. It was also hit recently by regional tsunamis.
Tonga is a low-income country with remittances from overseas very important to many; 22% live below the national poverty line. During the financial year 2009–2010, remittances declined from 30% of GDP with estimates that the real value has fallen 50% due to inflation. The continuing global economic downturn will further reduce remittances and push more people into hardship and poverty.
Tonga places great importance in integrating disaster risk consideration into sustainable development. The national Disaster Risk Management (DRM) institutions and their capacity need strengthening. There are weaknesses in the current national emergency management office (NEMO) staffing and organisational structure, resulting in critical shortcomings in NEMO’s role to coordinate government and non-government DRM programmes and their implementation.