(MissionNewswire) Youth who were evacuated from Don Bosco Ngangi Center in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, during the Nyiragongo volcanic eruption have returned to the center. The volcano erupted May 22 and Salesians, Salvatorian Sisters and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians had to remove all of the children from the Maison Ushindi orphanage and the young residents of the Saint Kizito Institute in order to keep them safe.
For those who lived through the worst, the fear still remains. Lava reached several villages, destroying homes, cultivated fields, electrical lines and water tanks. Many people left their homes not knowing how long they'd be gone or if they would have a home or possessions when they returned.
For a week, 283 children, 187 older youth and 82 adults found refuge in the Salesian farm in Shasha, where the living situation was difficult due to lack of space and sanitation facilities. Hygienic conditions were precarious, and people lived with the constant fear that COVID-19 might spread among those displaced.
"Now that we're in the post-evacuation phase, it's different emergency," said a representative of Mission Don Bosco in Turin, Italy, which helps support the Don Bosco Ngangi Center. "Here there is less fear, but more misery. We still have children begging in the streets and older people who need support wandering the city all dirty and covered in rags."
The representative added, "Even if the worst danger has passed, it is now necessary to intervene to help people find a home and dignity. We need to make sure children have a safe place to live, wash, feed and grow. There is a need for mattresses, blankets, food and powdered milk for babies."
Don Bosco Ngangi Center, which is home to 250 children across two sites, was spared any damage, but families who were receiving help from the Salesians had their homes destroyed. Hundreds of houses and goods have been reduced to ash, and many families lost the few possessions they had.
Faced with this new situation and need for humanitarian aid, Salesian missionaries in Goma have launched an appeal for aid to help the youth they serve and the families who have sought help and safety.
Despite its vast material wealth, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has long been a very poor nation. Half of the country's population lives below the poverty line living on less than $1 a day, especially those in rural communities. More than 4.1 million Congolese are now displaced with 620,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries. More than 7.5 million people do not have enough food to eat.
Salesian missionaries have been working in the country for more than 100 years ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Salesian primary and secondary schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs offer many youth the opportunity for a stable and productive future.
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Salesian Missions -- Democratic Republic of the Congo
UNICEF -- DR Congo