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Trócaire supports hygiene and sanitation projects like this one in Mabukulu village in East DR Congo all over the country Photo: Garry Walsh Trócaire

DR Congo

Goma One Month On: Lava Has Stopped Flowing and Rebuilding the City Beneath Mt Nyiragongo Has Begun

Thousands of citizens from the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have safely returned to their homes following the eruption of Mt Nyiragongo, which devastated the city just four weeks ago. Goma is home to 2 million residents and lies directly beneath the mountain known as ‘Africa’s most dangerous volcano’. Despite residents returning, Goma remains one of the most dangerous places to live, given its proximity to the active volcano.

In the aftermath of May’s eruption, thirty people were left dead, 20,000 are thought to be homeless with many schools and health facilities destroyed. Hysterical residents were forced to flee by foot to neighboring Rwanda as they awoke to the smell of the city burning and lava lighting the night sky. Mt Nyiragongo erupted without warning and flooded the area with burning lava and treacherous fires. Residents felt fear and panic as memories of the disastrous eruption in 2002 resurfaced. Homes and personal possessions were burned, lost and looted in the rush to escape.

Thousands trekked to Rwanda in search of safety and refuge

Eight thousand Congolese crossed the border into Rwanda, in search of safety and refuge, but the journey wasn’t an easy one. Many roads outside the city were blocked and congested and transport costs instantly rose for civilians who made the trek through the night. In the chaos of the movement, many children were lost and separated from their families. Parents did everything they could to keep their children together in this situation.

When the border finally opened, chaos ensued as people were desperate to cross quickly. The Rwandan government were a huge support to the newly displaced Congolese who arrived. They provided direction and transport to a stadium where everyone could be hosted and helped.

Everyone who arrived in Rwanda in need of support, have received the necessary help. When the earthquakes also affected the stadium in which the 6,000 refugees were initially hosted, the Government, in collaboration with UNHCR, set up several other refugee camps where people could be hosted and provided with a range of supplies and services including food, water, shelter, medical support and trauma counselling.

Rwanda recorded 125 earthquakes since DRC volcanic eruption

Rwanda has experienced 125 earthquakes as a result of the eruption with 2,990 homes, schools, churches and commercial buildings being damaged.
Water pumps and lines have been damaged and where water is still available, local people crowd around functional water taps and spend many hours waiting their turn. Due to the high number of Congolese refugees crossing the border, observing all COVID-19 prevention measures has been a challenge.

Rebuilding Goma, the city that lies beneath the volcano

Mt Nyiragongo which stands 3,500 metres high, has erupted approximately 34 times since 1882 and is home to the world’s largest lava lake making residents who reside beneath the volcano, vulnerable to another eruption.

It has been reported that prices have risen in the markets around Goma as recovery begins. The road between Goma and Rutshuru, which is one of the three main trade routes and facilitates the delivery of humanitarian aid to other locations, was blocked for six days while the lava was too hot to be removed. Thankfully, the lava has stopped flowing and rebuilding efforts have begun. However, Government officials have estimated costs of up to $20 million to rebuild the city and Goma International Airport remains closed amid fears of another eruption.

What is Trócaire and its partners doing to support these efforts?

Local responders, such as Trocaire’s partner Caritas Nyundo, were among the first to get food and other essential supplies to the most vulnerable people that fled Goma with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. Trócaire has been able to provide financial and technical support to Caritas Nyundo, for the distribution of food to vulnerable Congolese families. 20,000 Euro was made made available straight away for this support to happen.

Trócaire is taking part in the Government led Post Disaster Needs Assessment, while representing the Network of International NGOs (NINGO) in Rwanda, with a view to coordinating recovery efforts by the aid agencies operating in Rwanda. In addition, Trócaire is in partnership with the Ministry of Emergency Management which it supports in its emergency and recovery support to affected populations

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