At least 31 dead and thousands displaced after volcano eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN Refugee Agency says
Hundreds of children are feared to be missing and thousands of people fled their homes after Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupted 12 km north of the town Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 22 May.
Speaking to journalists at the United Nations in Geneva, Boris Cheshirkov, spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that “according to authorities, 32 people died in incidents linked to the eruption, including seven people killed by lava and five asphyxiated by gases”. Cheshirkov added that “led by the Red Cross, a significant effort is underway to reunite several hundred children who were separated from their families as they fled”.
“Two villages on Goma’s northern tip were destroyed and two others were almost completely covered by lava”, Mr. Cheshirkov said. “Our staff have heard testimonies from families who lost their homes, and from others who lost children and other loved ones. Entire neighborhoods have been left without any electricity and there are fears of water shortages”.
UNICEF reported that more than 150 children have been separated from their families amid the chaos and more than 170 children are feared to be missing. With water and electricity shortages, the children’s agency fears the risk of spreading cholera.
Another challenge is the destruction of the road which has led to the disruption of transportation of goods.
“The road leading to northern parts of North Kivu province is also damaged by lava, which will hamper the transport of food and goods to the area around Beni, where some 280,000 people displaced by conflict and insecurity since January 2021 rely on humanitarian aid”, UNHCR’s spokesperson said.
UNHCR is preparing to assist those in need of shelter and relef items in the Goma area in coordination with other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and in support of the government’s emergency response.
Mr. Cheshirkov stressed that “funding is urgently needed to help us assist those affected. UNHCR has received just 17 per cent of the US$204.8 million needed for our operations in the DRC”. UNHCR’s spokesperson added that “this latest disaster comes on top of the over 2 million people already displaced by brutal violence in North Kivu province, of which Goma is the capital. This year alone, 450,000 people have been forced to flee their homes”.