Social Protection in Times of Need: Top-up Transfers to the Elderly in the Aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Gita in Tonga

Tropical Cyclone (TC) Gita was the strongest cyclone to hit the Kingdom of Tonga since 1982. On Monday, February 12, 2018, TC Gita passed over the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Eua causing significant damage. To support the most affected and vulnerable in the aftermath of TC Gita, the Government of Tonga decided to provide top-up transfers through two existing social assistance programs: the Social Welfare Scheme (SWS) and the Disability Welfare Scheme (DWS). This decision was based on a rapid needs assessment carried out by the Government of Tonga as part of their disaster response plan. The assessment identified that the elderly (those aged 70 and above) and those living with disabilities had unmet needs, and were therefore at higher risk of poverty and vulnerability. This report presents findings of a World Bank assessment of the SWS top-up and is structured around several key areas: (i) characteristics of the elderly and their households, including main income sources and informal assistance; (ii) assistance received after TC Gita; (iii) usage of the SWS top-up transfer; (iv) impacts of the top-up on the surveyed beneficiaries’ independence, decision-making, and wellbeing; and (v) insights on the SWS top-up program operations.