To the Principal of Ocean of Light, Mr. Alan Cain,
Secretary General of the Tonga Red Cross Society, Mr. Sione Taumoepeau,
Director of Education, Women Affairs and Culture, Mrs. Emily Pouvalu,
Acting Deputy National Emergency Management Office, Mr. Fotu Veikune,
Teachers and students, and guests,
It is indeed an honour to be with all of you today to celebrate the official marking ceremony of the ‘International Day for Disaster Reduction' with this year's theme, "Making Children and Youth Partners in Disaster Risk Reduction".
Natural disasters are increasing and while more and more people are suffering from the related tragedies, children are amongst the most troubled as their ability to cope with unexpected and painful interruptions to their regular schedules is still not fully developed.
So what shall we do about this?
I believe everyone irrespective of their age and status has a role to play in reducing the risks caused by natural disasters. Each individual needs empowerment, partnerships need strengthening and commitment to risk reduction also needs enforcement.
Information on risk management should be more accessible to our young people. Advance planning is also required to ensure our people are resilient to the negative impacts of climate change in the years to come.
Children and youth need to step up for disaster risk reduction and show that disaster risk matters to them and they want to do something about them.
It is therefore, my encouragement for children and youth to be courageous and lead others with confidence to get involved and participate in the efforts for disaster risk reduction.
To the local government and other relevant youth agencies and organizations, your support and commitment in making children and youth partners in disaster risk reduction is equally critical as everyone is accountable!
In 2009 a tsunami hit the Niuas. It created a lasting impression on the minds of young children on how natural disasters can cause destruction and result in losses for some families.
We must be prepared for meeting, the challenges that come with natural disasters - the emotional trauma, the loss of property and human life, the recovery that has to take place and trying to mitigate the harmful impact.
Young people are the most vulnerable in times of natural disaster but they can also be part of the community of people who would ensure that Tonga like any other country, is prepared to face and survive natural disasters.
I do hope that today will mark the beginning of efforts to remind ourselves always that we will always be vulnerable to natural disaster but we can minimize the impact by acting together.
Issued and transcribed by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'alofa, 2011.