Tens of thousands of people are fleeing from the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following the eruption of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano and ongoing earthquakes. At least 31 people have died and 20,000 have lost their homes. The main water supply pipeline in Goma was hit by the lava, depriving more than 500,000 people of safe, clean drinking water.
“Too many people are now homeless and without enough food to eat or clean water to drink,” said Benjamin Viénot, Action Against Hunger’s DRC Country Director, who was in Goma at the time of the eruption. “As soon as it is safe to resume operations in the area, we will be providing clean drinking water to as many people as we can, as well as hygiene education to prevent the resurgence of cholera and other deadly waterborne diseases. We will also be offering psychological support to those who have lost their homes or family members.”
Action Against Hunger is gearing up to provide 10 liters per day of drinking water per person for over 20,000 people through water trucking and community water management committees. Water chlorination and levels of residual chlorine checks will be performed on an ongoing basis. The organization will train community health workers in healthy hygiene practices so they can support their neighbors in preventing disease outbreaks. Mental health support will also be offered to vulnerable people in distress in both individual and group settings, since there can be a direct link between mental health and hunger.
More than 3.2 million people live in the North Kivu province, where Goma is located, and more than 350,000 people in the area faced a food crisis before the volcanic eruption.
Currently there are concerns about additional earthquakes, another potential volcanic eruption, as well as the potential that instability could release a methane pocket underneath Kivu Lake, which surrounds Goma. Its release likely would result in a very high death toll and significant health impacts for the survivors.
“We are very concerned about the people of Goma right now, and will be doing everything we can to help,” said Viénot, whose team at Action Against Hunger has been working in the DRC since 1996, providing a range of services from emergency nutrition programs to water, sanitation and hygiene support.
Media contact: Meril Cullinan, email@example.com.