Children and families at risk following huge volcano eruption in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, warns UNICEF

23 May 2021

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 23 May 2021 – UNICEF has reported that more than 150 children have been separated from their families and more than 170 children are feared to be missing as people fled the city of Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, following Mount Nyiragongo's eruption last night. 

More than 5,000 people crossed the border into Rwanda from Goma yesterday, and at least 25,000 were displaced in Sake, 25 km north-west of Goma. However, most people are slowly making their way back home since the lava has stopped flowing this morning. 

There is also concern about hundreds of people returning to Goma to find damaged homes and water and electricity shortages.  

It is not yet clear how many households have been affected by the eruption in the Nyiragongo Territory, north of Goma.  Scores of children in the area near Goma’s airport have been left homeless and destitute. At least five deaths were directly related to the eruption in Buhene, Kibatshi and Kibumba. 

A UNICEF team has been deployed in the affected areas of Sake, Buhene, Kibati and Kibumba to provide first-line response consisting of:

• Installing chlorination water points in and around Sake to limit the spread of cholera. Several water supply networks in the area will be chlorinated shortly;

• Strengthening its epidemiological surveillance for cholera, especially in Goma following the return of thousands of residents;

• Establishing two transit centers for unaccompanied and separated children, in collaboration with the local Congolese authorities. UNICEF is also working with partners to refer cases of gender-based violence and abuse for adequate medical and psychosocial support. 

Nyiragongo's last eruption in 2002 left more than 100,000 people homeless. It is considered one of the world's most active and dangerous volcanoes.

Media contacts

Chiara Frisone
UNICEF East Asia and Pacific
Tel: +66 626 925 897
Jean Jacques Simon
UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

Follow UNICEF on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and YouTube