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Ireland providing life-saving aid to Congolese city devastated by volcanic eruption and earthquakes

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Ireland’s largest humanitarian organisation is providing life-saving clean water and other essential needs to thousands of families returning to an area devastated by a recent volcanic eruption and earthquakes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo on May 22, subsequent earthquakes and the risk from magma under Goma forced the mass evacuation of the city, which has a population of about 2 million, as the skies turned red and rivers of lava streamed from the volcano.

While most of the population has returned, thousands of houses and public buildings, along with water and other infrastructure, were destroyed or damaged.

Concern Worldwide has been responding to the disaster and is working to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases, such as cholera.

“We are hurrying to support thousands of households affected by the eruption,” said Concern’s Country Director in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Russell Gates.

“Over 200,000 people lost access to water and it may take months for this to be restored so it is essential that we do what we can.

“We are providing emergency relief constructing latrines and water tanks, promoting hygiene practices and distributing essential items to people that have no access to water and have lost their belongings following the eruption.”

Concern is also building 37 toilets in schools and at a health centre in the Turunga area of Goma. Its team of aid workers are also providing essential items to the affected population, which include rigid jerry cans, buckets, blankets, sanitary pads, soap, sleeping mats, and kitchen utensils.

To further prevent the spread of water-borne diseases, in addition to ongoing serious threats from Ebola and COVID-19, Concern staff are providing hygiene advice to 17,000 people in a badly affected area.

Much of this response is being funded by a €117,000 emergency donation from the Irish government’s programme for overseas development, Irish Aid.

“Many of our staff live in Goma and were living in the path of the lava and so were also affected by having to relocate following government orders,” added Mr Gates.

“Once our team got themselves and their family to safety, they immediately turned to how they could help others and we’re glad to be part of the response to make sure we support as many people as we can.”

The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo was followed by a number of earthquakes, some reaching 5.0 on the Richter scale, which worsened the crisis.

As the magma moved under the city, there were also fears that an eruption under nearby Lake Kivu could release clouds of suffocating gases into Goma.

While the risk of that happening is currently considered low, the situation continues to be monitored by the authorities.

A considerable number of buildings are still unsafe for anyone to return to and many people have lost their belongings or have since been forced to sell them for food.

The last major eruption of Mount Nyiragongo occurred in 2002 when over 100 people were killed and 120,000 people were left homeless.

ENDS

For more information, please contact Kevin Jenkinson at 086 358 2886 or by email: kevin.jenkinson@concern.net.