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Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)Eruption of Nyiragongo volcano, Goma

04-02-2002 Operational Update



 General Situation  


The lava flow from the eruption of Nyiragongo volcano caused the population of Goma to flee the city, particularly into Rwanda. Within a few days, ho wever, most had returned to Goma, with only 10,000 people remaining in three camps in Rwanda. The lava flow and subsequent fires have caused severe damage to Goma where approximately 20 to 25% of houses, shops and community buildings have been destroyed. Some 100,000 people are homeless, many of whom were already vulnerable as a result of the ongoing conflict and the difficult economic situation.

The flow of lava has now stopped, but experts are still very concerned, unsure of the risk that remains. Explosions of methane gas are a permanent threat.

Some of the Regideso water network is functioning but, although repairs are underway, much still needs to be done. The lava flow destroyed two hospitals, four health centres and about 80% of the pharmacies in Goma. The medical facilities which escaped the lava flow, however, are still operational.

In Goma, OCHA has set up an information centre and is actively participating in coordinating the activities of the various humanitarian agencies in the area. UNTAC and UNSECOORD are coordinating security, and MONUC continues to act according to its responsibilities under UN Security Council resolutions.



 International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Response  


The Movement is working to address some of the most urgent humanitarian needs of the several hundred thousand people affected by the eruption. The ICRC and the International Federation met to see how best to work together. It was established that the ICRC would assume the role of Lead Agency for the Movement for the general direction and coordination of the relief operation i n Goma and would exercise the general and specific responsibilities of that function as provided for in the Seville Agreement. As a result of the ongoing conflict in the region, the ICRC has been present in the area for several years and is able to use its existing structure to address some of the most urgent humanitarian needs of the population affected.

The International Federation, in close consultation with the ICRC, will be responsible for the coordination and management of the specific operation for the benefit of the victims of the eruption. The ICRC will retain the overall responsibility for the coordination of security issues and communication with the authorities.

Coordination with the Participating National Societies (PNSs) is a top priority in order to preserve the coherence of the Movement’s response. It has been agreed that the Federation in consultation with the ICRC will assume the specific responsibility of ensuring coordination amongst the PNSs.

The ICRC Goma mission, presently based in Gisenyi, Rwanda, has decided to take immediate action on access to safe drinking water, the continued functioning of the medical structures, and the re-establishment of family links. Several activities have been undertaken in this respect, while other needs are being systematically assessed.

The Federation will establish a presence in Goma. Staff will clearly focus efforts on the coordination of the relief efforts of the PNSs, in close consultation and coordination with the ICRC head of mission in Goma and will take charge of managing agreed activities to support the affected population.

On the Rwandan side of the border, a coordinated Movement response was rapidly established between the ICRC, the Federation, the Rwandan Red Cross and other National Societies present in the country. This was essential when organizing the response to the large numbers of people fleeing the area most affected by the eruption of the volcano. The s ituation rapidly evolved, however, with the population moving back into the DRC. Present information indicates that the response to the humanitarian needs of the population will concentrate on the Goma region in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As per the 2002 Emergency Appeals, the ICRC will continue its planned activities in the rest of the DRC whilst maintaining an overall view of the Movement’s activities in the Goma region.

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 Current Movement Activities  



 Water and Sanitation  

The ICRC is continuing to assist the water company, Regideso, in repairing Goma's water distribution network. The network's capacity is growing every day. The ICRC is providing tools and the necessary equipment, fuel and chemicals for water treatment plants. As an interim measure, the ICRC is trucking drinking water to four distribution points in Goma and still providing water-purification tablets for 20 Amis Kivu water-collection sites along the shores of Lake Kivu. OXFAM, MSF and the Congolese Red Cross are providing, maintaining or repa iring latrines and septic tanks and working on hygiene promotion.



 Medical facilities  

Although there seem to be few medical emergencies, stocks of medicines and materials in health centres are running low. The ICRC is delivering basic drugs to five health centres in Goma, enough to treat 1,000 people in each hospital over three months. Many patients have eye problems and breathing difficulties because of the ash and fumes from the lava.




In Bukavu, the ICRC, through the Congolese Red Cross, is providing non-food assistance to approximately 1,500 people from Goma in three sites: Panzi, STA and Ibanda; 350 blankets, 324 plastic plates, 514 plastic beakers and 519 bars of soap have been given out. In each of the three sites, cleaning materials, lamps and cooking equipment have been given to the Congolese Red Cross to enable it to carry out its work more efficiently. Latrines have been constructed and plumbing work carried out to repair showers, taps and some toilets.




The ICRC, along with the Congolese Red Cross, is continuing efforts to reunite families separated by the disaster. In collabo ration with the ICRC, the Congolese Red Cross has opened 12 posts where unaccompanied children can be registered and where parents can fill out tracing requests. So far, 210 children have been registered in Goma and 800 tracing requests have been submitted. Some 80 children have been registered in Bukavu and 150 in the camps in Rwanda. In Goma and Bukavu, other organizations both local and international are also registering unaccompanied children.

To date, 40 family reunifications have taken place in Goma.

Congolese Red Cross teams have been working on sanitation in places lodging victims of the volcano. The ICRC has been working in close cooperation with the North Kivu provincial committee to ensure support for the work of the National Society. The following materials are currently being provided by the ICRC:

  • Food and non-food aid for unaccompanied children

  • Equipment for sanitation activities – to collect rubbish and pipe away waste water.

  • Hire of 4 motorcycles for tracing activities and assessments

  • Fuel for Congolese Red Cross vehicles

  • Battery for a Congolese Red Cross vehicle

  • 4 megaphones

  • 500 vests and 100 flags (being made).

The Rwandan Red Cross has the responsibility for the Mudende camp that currently houses approximately 4,500 persons. Monitoring and evaluation of the living and nutritional conditions is being done on a regular basis by the local National Society branch with support of Federation and PNS delegates.

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 Short- to Medium-Term Strategy  



 The ICRC  



 Water and Sanitation  

Drinking water is to remain the ICRC’s main priority concentrating on working with the Regideso in Goma to re-establish the supply. In the meantime, water trucking will continue.



 Medical Facilities  

Medical care in Goma is free of charge for a month starting on 21 January and it has been decided that all donations of medicines and materials should take place through a central purchasing body for the whole of North Kivu. Donations will be transported by ICRC vehicles, after notifying the authorities to avoid customs difficulties.




The ICRC’s main objective is to reregister all the unaccompanied children in Goma before the eruption who were awaiting reunification with their families – mainly in Kinshasa. Other cases shall be dealt with as they arise.




The ICRC has no plans to effect food distributions in the DRC. The WFP is providing food for those in need. Distributions of non-food items will continue to take place on an ad hoc basis. The uncertainty about whether those affected are going stay in the area means that rehabilitation projects are not feasible for the time being. A registration of affected families carried out by the Congolese Red Cross has shown that 12,500 families are in need and, in collaboration with the Federation, it plans to distribute one non-food kit to 6,500 of these families – 33,000 people. Each kit will comprise:

  • 5 blankets

  • up to 2 tarpaulins depending on the severity of the family’s loss

  • 1 jerrycan

  • 2 kg soap

  • 1 kitchen set



 The Federation  



 Refugee Camps in Rwanda  

The number of people in the camps in Rwanda is slowly decreasing and it is possible that the three existing camps will be amalgamated at the Mudende camp site. Here, the Rwandan Red Cross is in charge of camp management, in collaboration with the Belgian Red Cross. This would bring the total number of people in the camp to about 10,000. It is realistic to expect that some of the displaced families will remain there for up to three months.

Other PNSs in the region are taking part in assessments of the Gisenyi area.



 Strengthening National Society Capacities  

The Federation plans to equip and train the Congolese Red Cross’s Goma branch and the Rwandan Red Cross’s Gisenyi branch to allow them to rapidly mobilize and deploy volunteers to support the evacuation of large numbers of the population in case of further volcanic activity.



 Water and Sanitation  

The Federation plans to provide operational assistance to the Regideso in terms of chemicals, essential spare parts and trucks. Plans also include an extension to the water supply network and the construction of a new pumping station to increase pumping capacity.




The Federation also intends to participate in the rehabilitation of Goma and help repair and rebuild hospitals, health posts, schools, etc. The rehabilitation of some of the houses severely damaged by the tremors and earth shocks in the Gisenyi prefecture is planned, as is the provision of corrugated sheets and minimal hardware to allow the many roofs that were destroyed to be repaired.

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 Ongoing Activities in the DRC and Rwanda  

Outside the disaster area, ICRC activities in the rest of the DRC and in Rwanda continue according to the objectives detailed in the 2002 Emergency Appeals. The destruction of warehouse stocks will undoubtedly have some impact on activities in the east but all operations are ongoing. Activities in western DRC are not affected.



 In the DRC , the ICRC focuses its activities on:

  • rapid assistance to vulnerable groups affected by the conflict to ensure their survival, while promoting their self-sufficiency

  • support to the authorities i n providing adequate health care for the war-wounded and the civilian population

  • protection activities for different categories of people who have been deprived of their freedom, including prisoners of war, people detained in connection with the conflict and civilian internees

  • the re-establishment of contact between separated family members

  • the development of the National Society.

In Rwanda too, existing operations continue.


 In Rwanda , the ICRC focuses its activities on:

  • detainees held in prisons and communal lock-ups (cachots)

  • unaccompanied children seeking their families after being separated from them either in 1994 or during the mass repatriations in 1996/1997

  • vulnerable genocide survivors and victims of internal conflict (predominantly widows and orphans) in need of assistance to rebuild their lives

  • resident populations whose local water networks remain damaged from the time of the genocide

  • people temporarily displaced for reasons of security.