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PM offers NZ help with mental health in Gita's aftermath

Jacinda Ardern has drawn parallels with children who experienced the Christchurch earthquakes and those who were caught up in Cyclone Gita.

Jacinda Ardern visited Fasi Government Primary School to see the destruction caused by cyclone Gita. Photo: Pool photo / Michael Craig / New Zealand Herald

The Prime Minister spent yesterday in Tonga visiting Fasi Government School in Nuku'alofa where some classrooms have been completely destroyed.

Children have been forced to work out of makeshift tents, stuffed with up to 60 children at times.

While at the school, Ms Ardern announced an extra $7 million of funding to rebuild damage to schools across the country.

That was not the only thing that needed fixing, she said.

"We're so quick to rebuild walls and roofs, but to hear that kids were feeling the effect of being through such a traumatic event of that scale [is hard]," Ms Ardern said.

Environment specialist Netatua Prescott Taufatofua had been researching the effects of storms on children and said Cyclone Gita was particularly bad.

"Most children were awake and if there was damage to their house and they need to [move] another house, like my children and my nieces and nephews, that image of running through the night while the wind was howling and everything was blowing... There needs to be a system to get the fear out of their minds," Dr Taufatofua said.

Ms Ardern said she would tell the Tongan government that New Zealand was keen to help support the mental health of children.

"From what we've learnt in New Zealand perhaps [we can] share how in the aftermath [of the quakes] we dealt with the issue, but I have to say we dealt with it pretty slowly as well," she said.

Ms Ardern is in Rarotonga today, where she is meeting with the Prime Minister Henry Puna - her last stop on a whirlwind Pacific tour before she heads back to New Zealand tomorrow.


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