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Democratic Republic of the Congo - Volcano Fact Sheet #13, Fiscal Year (FY) 2002

Situation Report
Originally published


Note: the last fact sheet was dated February 1, 2002.


On January 17, Mt. Nyiragongo erupted at approximately 9:30 AM local time (2:30 AM EST). The 11,381-foot volcano produced a fissure and three paths of lava, one of which headed toward the city of Goma, 18 kilometers to the south. Out of Goma's population of approximately 450,000 people, an estimated 300,000 people fled east to Gisenyi and Ruhengeri in Rwanda, while approximately 100,000 moved west towards Sake, Bukavu, and other locations within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Lava covered 13 percent of the city, or approximately 1.8 square miles. Mt. Nyiragongo previously erupted in 1977, when lava flow covered 20 square km, destroyed 400 houses and 10 km of road, and reportedly killed up to 400 people.

On January 18, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Margaret K. McMillion and U.S. Ambassador to the DRC Aubrey J. Hooks declared disasters for the eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo near Goma in the DRC.

Numbers Affected (as of February 2002)

Total Affected: Approximately 400,000 (World Health Organization (WHO))

Deaths: Approximately 100 (WHO)

Displaced People: Approximately 300,000-400,000 (USAID/OFDA field reports)

Homes Destroyed: Approximately 12,000-15,000 households, affecting approximately 80,000-100,000 people (USAID/OFDA field reports)

Current Situation

Contingency Planning

In mid-February, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) formulated a Regional Contingency Plan for the Great Lakes Region to review the response to the Mt. Nyiragongo volcano emergency. The plan highlights previous areas of weakness during a disaster response, such as the lack of resources, problems of access, and difficulties of coordination, and describes appropriate inter-agency responses to disaster scenarios. The most likely scenario considered during the course of contingency planning for volcanic and seismic activity is catastrophic seismic activity producing lava flows very near to, or within Goma town, Gisenyi town, or Lake Kivu. This activity could trigger a westward evacuation of the entire population of Goma and Gisenyi towards Mugunga, Sake, and Bukavu, and high grounds above Gisenyi. In this scenario, loss of life, property destruction, and displacement of approximately 530,000 people (the populations of Goma and Gisenyi) would likely result.

Ongoing Threats

Since the January 17 eruption, scientists from UN OCHA and the Goma Volcano Observatory (GVO) have reported moderate to high levels of seismic activity at both Mt. Nyiragongo and Mt. Nyamuragira, located 25 miles northwest of Goma. During July 25-26, Mt. Nyamuragira began erupting after a period of increasing seismicity underneath the volcano. Lava spurted as high as 300 m into the air along a fracture zone that cut through the central crater. Lava flows moved slowly down the slope of the mountain both to the north and south, but posed little immediate threat to the local populations. Humanitarian officials believe that continued lava flows could eventually cause several thousand people to flee the area. Scientists believe that additional eruptions are likely in the immediate future; however, the eruptions do not pose an immediate threat to Goma at this time.

At Mt. Nyiragongo, seismic activity continues, focusing under the southern flank of the volcano. In mid-July, a plume of volcanic gases was observed coming from the summit crater, and the volume of the plume has continued to grow. Volcanologists at UN OCHA, the GVO, and USAID/OFDA continue to investigate any health ramifications of carbon dioxide emissions into crop fields and populated areas such as the Esco camp, where local volcanologists have confirmed that carbon dioxide gas is seeping from the ground into low spots in the area.

Shelter Needs

By late February, most of the displaced population had returned to the Goma area. However, most of the displaced have been unable to rebuild structures on the original sites currently underneath the new lava field. Many affected families remain with host families, or have moved into transitional shelters. Several thousand people remain at the Esco camp, a transit camp sponsored by the Goma-based Congolese Assembly for Democracy (RCD-G) and located eight km west of Goma. Refugees have also been located at the Institut Technique et Industriel de Goma (ITIG) secondary school, and at camps in Nkamira and Mudende, both in Gisenyi province, among other locations.

Economic Impacts

The destruction of residences and businesses caused by the volcanic eruption has severely disrupted economic activity for Goma residents, many of whom were living in highly vulnerable conditions prior to the disaster. Many residents lost their livelihoods in the volcanic eruption, and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) now estimate unemployment levels at 95 percent, compared to approximately 80 percent prior to the eruption. Losses in rent and profits for Goma's business community have also significantly depressed wages.

U.S. Government Assistance

Disaster Declarations and Background

In response to two separate disaster declarations, USAID/OFDA provided $25,000 to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa for relief assistance in the DRC, and $25,000 to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda for relief assistance in Rwanda.

During the course of the disaster relief effort, USAID/OFDA worked with NGOs and UN agencies to provide approximately $5.0 million in assistance. A number of these organizations continue to assist volcano victims in the Goma region.

Emergency Assistance

USAID/OFDA provided two airlifts of relief commodities to Kigali, Rwanda containing 40,000 wool blankets, 35,200 water jugs, 20 10,000-liter water bladders, 300 rolls of plastic sheeting for shelter, and 5,000 dust masks. The first airlift, which arrived on January 21, cost $494,000. The second airlift, which arrived on January 23, cost $339,337. USAID/OFDA consigned the materials to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), World Vision, World Relief, and UNICEF for distribution.

On January 21, USAID's Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) approved a loan of 1,714 metric tons (MT) of Title II emergency food assistance, valued at $1.1 million, to the World Food Program (WFP) from existing programs in the region. Through several NGO implementing partners, WFP delivered approximately 7,000 MT of food assistance to approximately 460,000 vulnerable people in the Goma region from the beginning of the emergency response until June.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the loan of 3,450 MT of 416(b) emergency food commodities, valued at $2.3 million, from existing programs in the region to assist people affected by the eruption.

In March, USAID/OFDA allocated approximately $150,000 to reimburse CRS for logistics costs to transport relief supplies as part of the immediate Goma volcano response. CRS worked with local partner Caritas Goma to distribute 25 MT of food and non-food items in Gisenyi, Rwanda, and Goma. In mid-February, CRS and Caritas Goma completed a major food distribution that reached approximately 14,460 families, and a non-food distribution of relief commodities that reached approximately 15,015 families. Caritas Goma made bi-monthly food distributions to approximately 4,500 families until the end of April.

USAID/OFDA allocated approximately $800,000 to IRC to provide access to potable water and sanitation facilities for displaced populations. From January 17 to the end of March, IRC, together with OXFAM and ICRC, delivered approximately 800,000 liters of water per day to 22 public bladders and four health center bladders in Goma. IRC also constructed a number of emergency hygiene and sanitation provisions, including 436 emergency pit latrines and 276 emergency bathing cubicles throughout the Nkamira and Mudende camps in Rwanda.

Shelter Assistance and Hazard Monitoring and Mitigation

From February 6 to 15, USAID/OFDA deployed an Urban Planning and Disaster Mitigation Specialist and a Geoscience Advisor to conduct a shelter and hazard mitigation assessment in Goma. The team worked with representatives from international organizations and local authorities to consider possible shelter response options. The team recommended a strategy featuring a transitional shelter program in Goma that would also include activities to rebuild livelihoods, coupled with the promotion of hazard monitoring and mitigation activities designed to assist Goma residents in coping with volcano hazards.

USAID/OFDA currently supports several programs in Goma aimed at providing shelter, reducing hazard levels, and promoting preparedness. USAID/OFDA is establishing a volcano hazard awareness campaign and identifying appropriate evacuation routes in case of another eruption through a grant to Concern Worldwide for $192,533. This support will continue for approximately three years.

Since March, USAID/OFDA has provided $2,224,960 to CRS and Caritas in Goma for the ongoing Goma Transition Shelter Program to supply more than 5,000 households with temporary shelter materials and construction training.

Technical Assistance

On January 18, USAID deployed an assistance team consisting of five people to Kigali, Goma and Bukavu, DRC, including a water and sanitation engineer, a food aid specialist, two emergency disaster relief coordinators and one regional advisor. Members of the assistance team provided immediate humanitarian assessments in the region following the volcanic eruption. USAID personnel in the DRC and Rwanda continue to closely monitor the humanitarian situation.

In February, USAID/OFDA provided three seismographs, in addition to the three donated by USAID/OFDA the previous year, to the GVO. Seismographs provide the key signals that allow scientists to warn the public of impending eruptions. USAID/OFDA has pledged approximately $150,000 to UN OCHA to upgrade seismometers at the GVO. USAID/OFDA will also continue to provide GVO staff support and logistical support through a grant to Save the Children UK (SCF/UK) for $319,741. This support will continue until early 2003.

Other Donor and International Organization Assistance

Relief Commodities

On January 23, ECHO provided five million Euros in assistance for the purchase of water, medications, and food aid and to assist with coordination and logistics in the region. ECHO also provided an in-kind contribution through ECHOFLIGHT, a fleet of light aircraft serving humanitarian crisis points in the region).

Concern Worldwide allocated approximately $100,000 in January towards the emergency response, which included a charter flight carrying 42 MT of emergency supplies, including blankets, shelter material, and cooking utensils. A Concern water and sanitation specialist also conducted a water supply assessment.

Immediately following the eruption, UNICEF chaired a Non-Food Items Commission that coordinated the distribution of non-food supplies to approximately 90,000 families in Goma. Within 72 hours of the eruption, UNICEF mobilized more than 200 MT of non-food items, including jerry cans, blankets, plastic sheeting, purification tablets, and soap, for distribution to displaced groups.

From January 19 to 25, UNHCR distributed relief commodities, including blankets, plastic sheetings, kitchen sets, and jerry cans, to approximately 6,000 people sheltered at the UNHCR Nkamira Transit Center in Rwanda.

Risk Assessments

On April 24, UN OCHA organized the International Scientific Coordination Committee with the GVO,

UN-mandated scientists, and international representatives to provide organizational and technical assistance to the GVO. UN OCHA continues to support the rotational presence of foreign volcanologists to work with local GVO scientists.

From January 18 to 28, UN OCHA organized a five-member U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team consisting of UN OCHA staff and international representatives to conduct risk assessments in the region. The UNDAC team, together with ECHO and USAID assistance teams, worked closely with the humanitarian community operating in Goma and in Rwanda to facilitate a timely response to the needs of the volcano eruption victims.

On January 18, ECHO sent a four-person assessment team, including a water and sanitation specialist, a rapid reaction/sudden onset crisis specialist, the head of the DRC country office in Kinshasa, and a Goma-based regional expert who remains in the DRC. During their initial six-week mission, the team assessed needs and established a funding strategy for UN, NGO, and other donor contributions to the relief effort.

Donor Response (Cash and In-kind Contributions)

The U.N. released a Consolidated Appeal to the international community on February 12 for $21.6 million for the volcano relief effort. As of July 7, the international community had given approximately $35.0 million in response to the Mt. Nyiragongo eruption.

Foreign Government Response (not necessarily associated with the U.N. Appeal):** Information provided by the UN OCHA ReliefWeb site at http://www.reliefweb.int/fts/reports/pdf/OCHA_10_14195.pdf.

Government of Australia: Approximately $255,000 for food aid

Government of Belgium: Approximately $1.8 million

Government of Canada: Approximately $1.1 million

Government of the DRC: Approximately $1.3 million (450 million Congolese Francs)

Government of Denmark: Provided support for one UNDAC team member

Government of Finland: Approximately $180,000

Government of France: Approximately $270,000 (300,000 Euros)

Government of Germany: Approximately $2.4 million (2.7 million Euros)

Government of Holland: Approximately $225,000 (255,000 Euros)

Government of Iceland: Approximately $720,000 (800,000 Euros)

Government of Ireland: Approximately $1.5 million (1.3 million Euros)

Government of Israel: Approximately $30,000; dispatched two infectious disease specialists

Government of Italy: Approximately $1.4 million

Government of Japan: Approximately $367,939

Government of Luxembourg: Approximately $176,056 (200,000 Euros)

Government of the Netherlands: Approximately $400,000; provided support for one UNDAC team member

Government of Namibia: Approximately $100,000

Government of Norway: Approximately $2.7 million

Government of Rwanda: Established displacement camps, coordinated relief efforts

Government of South Africa: Chartered flight with relief supplies including 34 MT of food and non-food items

Government of Spain: Approximately $265,000 (300,000 Euros)

Government of Sweden: Approximately $1 million

Government of Switzerland: Approximately $900,000

Government of the United Kingdom: Approximately $4.7 million (4.9 million euros)

International Organizations Response (not necessarily associated with the U.N. Appeal):*

Action Contre la Faim: Distributed food items

Assistência Médica Internacional: Distributed drugs, basins, pans, buckets, and clothing

Baptist World Aid: Approximately $30,000

Bill Gates Foundation: $500,000

Canadian Red Cross Society: $15,723

CARE International: Coordinated NGO activities in Kigali

CARITAS: $222,000

Christian Aid: $72,463

Concern Worldwide: $90,000

CORDAID: $44,014

ECHO: Approximately $5 million

IFRC: $60,000; distributed non-food items

Medecins Sans Frontières/Belgium: Assessed mental health needs

Organization for African Unity: $100,000

SANRU: $4.0 million

Spanish Red Cross: $26,408

United Nations Children's Fund: Approximately $1.5 million; distributed non-food items

UNDP: $50,000

UNHCR: Approximately $475,000

UN OCHA: Approximately $40,000

U.N. Organization Mission in DRC: Provided logistics support

WFP: $2,800,000

World Health Organization: Oversaw health issues

World Vision: Approximately $2.6 million

*USAID/OFDA factsheets can be obtained from the USAID web site at http://www.usaid.gov/hum_response/ofda/situation.html

(pdf* format)