Fearing another eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), thousands of people are fleeing the city of Goma and its surroundings. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has temporarily relocated part of its teams to Bukavu and Minova, and with its partners in the Red Cross Movement, remains mobilized to meet the most urgent needs in Goma and the surrounding area.
People flee danger once again
Even though the eruption of May 22 is over, the gasses released by the volcano are still a threat to Goma's residents. Earthquakes continue to rattle the region, exposing the population to further risk, and it is difficult to specify the extent of the humanitarian needs. "The threat of another eruption is still real and the fear palpable. Earthquakes are still felt every five minutes in the city," said Raphaël Tenaud, ICRC operations manager in Goma.
On the night of Wednesday to Thursday, the exodus of thousands of people began towards the town of Sake in the west following the announcement of the evacuation of part of the city by the authorities due to the risks associated with seismic and volcanic movements.
Around 2 a.m., the families started heading for the port. The streets are full of people and there is a wave of panic, some with vivid memories of the eruptions and destruction of 2002. People are seeking safety, but some are also afraid to abandon their homes.
"The people of North Kivu have already struggled with socio-economic challenges and the consequences of armed conflict for decades. The region is one of the most food insecure places in Africa. This catastrophe is a double penalty. With each crisis, the capacity for resilience diminishes,"
Raphaël Tenaud, ICRC operations manager in Goma
Thousands of displaced people are seeking water, shelter, basic necessities, hygiene items and food. With the main road running north from Goma now cut off and all the very fertile cultivated land in that part of the city destroyed, it is likely that the city's residents will suffer food shortages in the days to come.
Prevent family separation
In just 48 hours, nearly 550 children were separated from their families as people fled following the eruption of May 22. It is essential to prevent thousands of displaced people from losing contact with their loved ones.
"We advise families to memorize the phone numbers of their loved ones as much as possible. If a person is traveling with a sufficiently grown child, they need to teach them their full name, their region of origin and the phone numbers of close people, in case they are separated from them," said Rachel Bernard, head of the ICRC delegation in the DRC.
Homes destroyed and essential services disrupted
More than 900 houses have already been destroyed. The water and electricity supply are still in operation in some parts of the city, but it's not clear exactly what coverage there is. The lava has seriously damaged the main reservoir in Goma city. It is estimated that nearly half a million inhabitants are without drinking water, and there is a high risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera. This precariousness is also to be taken into account for the thousands of people who had to leave Goma.
"We are doing everything we can to meet the many challenges associated with this constantly evolving situation, while respecting security measures. Some of our teams are moving with the population, others repair the reservoir or facilitate the supply of water by tanker truck to hospitals and Goma prison," says Rachel Bernard.
In addition, medical structures require support to ensure continuity of care, particularly in primary health centers. At Ndosho hospital, the ICRC medical team is continuing to take care of gunshot victims from all over North Kivu province. Secondary health facilities received assistance to maintain the supply of electricity, water and medicines.