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New shelter and new life after volcano eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo
ACT Alliance
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Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It is situated about 12 km north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and close to the border with Rwanda. Its eruption on 22nd May 2021 put the region in a state of crisis. But, in the midst of the tragedy, there are stories of joy.

Two years before the eruption, Kasereka Kitambala chose to settle in the village of Rukoko in the northern outskirts of Goma, about ten kilometers south of Mount Nyirangogo, as did other people displaced by wars. His wife, Kanyere Makeusa, was nearly seven months pregnant at the time of the disaster. Mr. Kitambala worked as a biker transporting people or goods, and on that day was shopping in the city to provide the needs of the household. Here is his story:

“It was a Saturday night when I was about to return home after buying some food for my family on the main avenue leading to our neighborhood. Suddenly I saw a rare and unusual lighting towards Mount Nyiragongo. Some spoke of a house fire, others of a bush fire. Finally, I realized that it was the volcano that had just started erupting. The idea I had was to run fast home, pick up my wife who was heavily pregnant and moving around on her own with difficulty. We headed west towards the Turunga district which seemed to be safe from the lava flow.

Whole life reduced to rubble

“Around 1:00am, we noticed that the lights were dimming. On Sunday morning, I plucked up the courage to go and see what had really happened. From the Kayanza village, I saw an empty area with a hot mist, some traces of smoke, a large space without houses or trees. I quickly understood that it was the lava flow that took everything over its passage, including our house. That same Sunday morning, I realized that my whole life had been reduced to rubble. The mountain spat out a fiery mud that swallowed my house and everything I had.

Two weeks later, when I was observing the lava to locate the traces of my plot, I saw a team of three people approach me and wonder what I was doing on this still hot lava. They introduced themselves as being from the nonprofit organisation BOAD (Bureau Œcuménique d’Appui au Développement resp. Ecumenical Office for Development Support) and said that they were in the neighborhood identifying the victims of the Nyiragongo volcano. This is how I was identified and benefited from their assistance.”

Hope for the future

“As I tell you my story, my wife’s and my hope has been reborn with the acquisition of a shelter, a mattress, a blanket, a tarp and an amount of 50 USD. In addition to the ACT Alliance assistance received from BOAD, the day we moved into our shelter, my wife gave birth to a baby. Our life in ruins has turned into joy, and we hope to live with the volcano which is a result of nature while following the information from the volcanological observatory of Goma.”

The consequences of Mount Nyiragongo's eruption

In the afternoon of Saturday the 22nd of May 2021, the town of Goma and its surroundings in the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experienced a sudden eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano. Around 40,000 people (5,000 households) were displaced, while 32 were reported dead. Access to basic services of health, schools, markets was disrupted due to destroyed roads. Electricity and water supplies were affected as well, leading to a threat of water borne disease outbreaks. Many people were injured or suffered from burns and psychosocial stress. Public order deteriorated, there was an increase in crime, and family separations were reported. Agricultural activities in the affected region stopped, causing fears of a shortage of basic food stuffs. The warning of a second possible eruption of the volcano resulted in a massive displacement of a poor and vulnerable population, with a third of Goma's inhabitants asking to be evacuated to keep safe. ACT Alliance national members Ecumenical Office for Development Support (BOAD) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo (ELCCo) issued a Rapid Response Fund (RRF) and, later on, together with Christian Aid, Church World Service's (CWS) regional office in Ruanda and their partner YWCA, a regional appeal to respond to the needs of the internally displaced persons in DRC and refugees in Rwanda.

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