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Localisation in action: The power of partnership in responding to the Nyiragongo volcano eruption in Rwanda

Trócaire has been at the forefront of localisation efforts in Rwanda since 1994. Last year, in partnership with Caritas Nyundo, we supported communities affected by the Nyiragongo volcano eruption in the Rubavu District, Western Province.

Caritas Nyundo’s distribution of shelter materials following the eruption of Mt Nyiragongo Photo Credit:  Caritas Nyundo Dio-cese Caritas Nyundo’s distribution of shelter materials following the eruption of Mt Nyiragongo Photo Credit: Caritas Nyundo Dio-cese

Mount Nyiragongo sits near the shore of Lake Kivu, a few miles from the Congolese city of Goma on the border with Rwanda. On 22 May 2021, the volcano erupted.

The lava flow and severe seismic activity that followed forced approximately 8,000 Congolese to flee across the Rwandan border to seek refuge, while thousands of Rwandan families in Rubavu District were also displaced. The Congolese were hosted and supported in camps around Rubavu district, although most returned to their homes in Goma within days as fears of a secondary eruption subsided.

Families were left homeless in four sectors of Rubavu District with roads, schools, water systems, and health centres affected. Homes, crops, and food stores were destroyed, making food security an immediate and urgent concern.

With the help of an emergency fund of €20,000 provided by Trócaire, our partner Caritas Nyundo was able respond quickly to the aftermath of the volcano. Staff transported the most vulnerable to transit camps, health centres and hospitals.

The organisation drew on its prepared emergency store of basic needs supplies (kitchen sets, hygiene equipment and food items), while other organisations were able to use its warehouse.

As the response unfolded, Caritas Nyundo was able to draw on its good relationship with community leaders to help identify those in need and to keep order at the humanitarian distribution site.

“We devised a community needs-based response because we were close to the affected
communities, both Congolese and local, and it was easy for us to understand their needs,” explained Father Jean Paul, Director of Caritas Nyundo.

As well as the emergency fund from Trócaire, Caritas Nyundo availed of a £200,000 Start Fund implemented by a consortium led by Trócaire in partnership with Oxfam, Tearfund and other local partners such as AEE and Duhamic-Adri.

The fund supported with shelter; cash assistance; WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) and protection, including protection against gender-based violence. Phones were distributed to the most deprived.

More than 2,000 people were identified as being in need through local authority lists, but the project could only cover supporting 970. 500 were selected in Rubavu and 470 in Rugerero. An additional 300 people were then selected for phone distribution.

Caritas Nyundo, as a member of the Joint Action District Forum (where local
stakeholders articulate development plans, set budgets and allocate district resources), took an active and influential role.

They worked with the district authority and the Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA), and contributed up-to-date information about the number of people affected and those who were not yet reached with support.

Martin Habimana, an advisor to the Mayor of Rubavu District, praised Caritas Nyundo’s role in the response and said it has established itself as a recognised first responder to any emergency in the district.

“Caritas has been our right hand in the whole coordination process in our response to the volcano eruption. Working with Caritas Nyundo helped the district to respond
faster because we used their resources like vehicles, food and non-food items, which were available immediately after the eruption occurred,” he said.

The power of partnership in the Nyiragongo response

Trócaire believes that local people should play a leading role in the development processes in their communities. In our new Strategic Plan (2021-2025), we have committed to a ‘step change’ in our approach to partnership, which involves shifting power more profoundly to our local and national partners in the countries where we work.

Despite the challenges of implementing a humanitarian response during Covid-19 restrictions, the partnership approach to the response to the volcano eruption was a success. The cooperation and coordination between local partners and local authorities was key to the Start Fund impact.

Preparedness and presence on the ground was key. Caritas Nyundo say previous experience working with Trócaire helped it improve its response to this emergency. The NGO had in place a roster of volunteers trained in emergency first aid by Trócaire and Caritas Rwanda two years before the eruption.

After the response beneficiaries said they were very happy with how the process had been managed, but said there was scope for improvement in the beneficiary selection process which could have been faster.

You can learn more about what Localisation is and download our strategy here.

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