Nyiragongo volcano eruption: the aftermath
Having been the first to respond to the volcanic emergency, UNICEF and its partners continue to assist affected families.
On the evening of 22nd May 2021, Africa’s most active volcano and one of the most dangerous in the world erupted. The lava flow from the Nyiragongo volcano flowed to the northeast of the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In its path, the lava decimated houses, schools and the city’s main water reservoir.
In the early hours of the morning, UNICEF teams visited the affected zones to assess the humanitarian needs. More than 3,500 houses, 7 schools and 4 health centres were destroyed and nearly 200,000 people were left without access to drinking water. Around 234,000 people were displaced in the days following the eruption, mainly in Sake, Minova and Rutshuru, east of Goma.
Through its rapid response mechanism, UNICEF quickly assisted the displaced communities in Sake by distributing emergency items such as buckets, containers, hygiene products and drinking water in order to enable them to protect themselves against cholera and other illnesses.
When she fled the volcanic eruption and took refuge in Sake, Celine took nothing with her. “These items will help me improve my hygiene,” she says after receiving emergency items through support from USAID’s Bureau for humanitarian assistance (BHA), the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UNCERF), and the Governments of Japan, Germany and Sweden.
Hundreds of children were separated from their parents in the chaos that followed the volcanic eruption. UNICEF helped to reunite more than 1,000 children with their families, such as Neema and Deborah, who were reunited with their older sister after being cared for in a UNICEF- supported shelter.
As displaced families gradually returned to Goma, UNICEF launched its second intervention phase. With support from USAID’s Bureau for humanitarian assistance (BHA), the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UNCERF), the Directorate General of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Operations (ECHO) and the Governments of Norway and the Republic of Korea, UNICEF is focusing its response on lava-affected areas in Goma.
Through its partner CARITAS, UNICEF is distributing water to more than 34,000 inhabitants every day and has restored a part of the water system that serves 130,000 people in the northern districts of Goma. “Water has become a rare commodity,” explain Béatrice and Julie who are delighted to have access to drinking water via tankers.
Several water supply networks have been installed in the north of the city of Goma to allow people affected by the eruption to have access to drinking water and to protect themselves from many diseases.
UNICEF has alsosupported the replacement of 300 metres of pipes destroyed by the lava in the worst affected area. In the past, cholera outbreaks began when Goma residents obtained dirty, contaminated water from Lake Kivu for drinking or washing pots.
Three weeks after the eruption, UNICEF set up eight temporary classrooms in three elementary schools for 840 pupils whose schools were destroyed by the lava. Education plays a crucial role in the return to normality following an emergency, allowing children to be children again.