The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned that a multi-hazard emergency looms large following the eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of 11.6 million Swiss francs to assist 80,000 displaced people in DRC and Rwanda and is calling for urgent support from donors and partners to help scale up operations.
Mohammed Omer Mukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa, said:
“The danger is not over, and more work lies ahead. While volcanic activity seems to have subsided, the recent eruption has left a trail of immense humanitarian needs. Hundreds have lost their homes and they urgently need shelter, food, clean water and healthcare. Families have also been separated amid the chaos that followed the eruption.”
Based on the requests for family reunification received by the Red Cross, at least 540 children were separated from their families after the eruption. Out of those 540 requests, Red Cross teams have reunited 64 missing children with their families. Many more are still missing. Over 1,722 houses and other structures have been destroyed, leaving about 30,000 people homeless and displaced. Some were displaced internally within DRC—others moved to Rwanda, in Rubavu.
Karamaga Apollinaire, the Secretary General of the Rwanda Red Cross said:
“In the town of Rubavu, to which many Congolese refugees fled, we have had to manage the influx and the destruction of property caused by the continuous earthquakes. Schools, homes, markets and water lines have been destroyed, and residents are being evacuated to safer grounds. Rwanda Red Cross volunteers have been on the ground since the eruption, providing humanitarian assistance to both the refugees and local communities.”
The eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo comes at the worst possible time in DRC. With thousands of displaced people, amid an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, in one of the most dangerous environments in the world—the Red Cross is worried about the “multiplier effect” that this new emergency adds to an already complex situation.
“The population of North Kivu has been grappling with socio-economic challenges for decades and is currently one of the most food insecure locations in Africa. With every disaster, their means of coping are weakened further,” said Mukhier.
As a response, the Red Cross will support communities affected by multiple hazards and compounding humanitarian vulnerabilities caused by the eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo for a period of 12 months. Through the operation, Red Cross teams will provide services such as shelter; distribution of household items; water, sanitation and hygiene; healthcare; protection and psychosocial support, among others.
Grégoire Mateso Mbuta Way, President of the DRC Red Cross, said:
“Although this is a worrying humanitarian situation, we are reassured by the fact that our Red Cross teams are experienced in responding to emergencies caused by volcanic activity. Our teams played a key role in supporting people affected by the last major eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo in 2002. The IFRC and the Red Cross in DRC understand the local context very well and have worked together for years in eastern DRC, including during the recent response to Ebola.”
Immediately after the eruption of Mountain Nyiragongo, the IFRC released 359,213 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to help the DRC Red Cross to provide assistance to 12,500 people from local communities evacuated from areas close to the volcano. The Red Cross is urgently calling for support to the emergency appeal to help reach more people with life-saving assistance.