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Centro de prensa

Press release

UNICEF rushes relief supplies to volcano zone

NAIROBI / GENEVA / ABIDJAN, 21 January 2002 - The United Nations Children's Fund is rushing an additional 60 tonnes of emergency supplies to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in an urgent effort to reach the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by a violent volcanic eruption and lava flow near the town of Goma last Thursday.

UNICEF said that hundreds of thousands of people who fled the volcano into neighboring Rwanda returned to the DRC over the weekend. An estimated 50,000 people displaced by the volcano remain in Rwanda, while as many as 300,000 have moved back toward Goma. UNICEF said it will airlift the relief supplies into the Rwandan capital of Kigali and truck them to wherever they are needed in the region. The agency noted that the risk of further volcanic activity has not yet been established.

UNICEF said today's relief flight - loaded with 60 tonnes of survival items - was scheduled to land in Kigali Monday evening. The flight, which originated from the UNICEF supply hub in Copenhagen, is carrying water purification tablets and powder, oral rehydration salts to stave off deadly diarrhoeal dehydration, tents and tarpaulins for shelter, and blankets for young infants and children.

UNICEF added that while its immediate focus is on emergency shelter, water and health requirements, it is also concerned that many children may have been separated from their families in the rush to leave Goma and surrounding areas. UNICEF staff in DRC and Rwanda are working with local authorities and other partners to identify unaccompanied children and reunite them with their families and communities. Of the approximately 350,000 people affected by the volcano, 200,000 are children under the age of 15. Of those, some 100,000 are under the age of five.

An earlier 28 tonnes of emergency supplies, dispatched from the UNICEF warehouse in Kinshasa, DRC, arrived in Kigali on Saturday. It was immediately trucked for distribution to the towns of Gisenyi in Rwanda, and Goma and Bukavu in DRC. The supplies included blankets, water tanks, family-size water jugs, plastic sheets and family tents, as well as medical kits to fight the spread of disease. This is in addition to an initial truckload of water containers, shovels, soap and disinfectant distributed to women, children and their families in Gisenyi. A further flight of UNICEF supplies from Kinshasa is being organized.

The UNICEF office in Goma was not hit by the lava flows from the volcano, and a large store of vaccines and the cold chain supplies that keep the vaccines fresh are still in order. UNICEF said that in addition to shelter and water supplies, it is ready to contribute to whatever health needs may arise. One concern is cholera, which occcurs frequently in the region. UNICEF said it is working with WHO and other partners to monitor health conditions and respond quickly to changing conditions.

As part of a coordinated UN relief effort, UNICEF is participating in continual assessments with other UN agencies and non-governmental parters to identify the most urgent requirements for children and women. UNICEF has more than two dozen staff in the affected areas to conduct assessments and coordinate the arrival of relief.


For further information, please contact:

Madeline Eisner, UNICEF Nairobi, Tel: 254-2-622214 or 254-72-520595

Beatrice Karanja, UNICEF Nairobi, Tel: 254-2-622770

Marc Vergara, UNICEF Media, Geneva, + 41 22 909 5513

Alfred Ironside UNICEF Media, New York, (212) 326 - 7261

Margherita Amodeo, UNICEF Abidjan, Tel: 225-20-208101