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DR Congo and Rwanda: Volcanic Eruption in Goma Appeal No. 02/02 Final Report


This Final Report is intended for reporting on emergency appeals.
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Preliminary Appeal No. 02/02; Launched on: 18 January 2002 for three months for CHF 1,533,000 to assist 250,000 beneficiaries.
Revised to Full Appeal No. 02/02 on 15 February 2002 for CHF 4,802,000 (US$ 2.8 Million or EUR 3.34 Million) for six months. Beneficiaries: 165,000
Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) Allocated: CHF 250,000 (repaid)
Period covered: 17 January to 31 October 2002; last Operations Update (no. 7) issued 19.04.2002


Appeal coverage: 80% (CHF 3,843,781)

Related Appeals: 2002 Annual Appeals for DRC (No. 06/2002) and Rwanda (No. 01.11/2002

Summary: This started as an emergency operation with massive numbers; it changed quickly for reasons well outside the control of the Red Cross movement. While the Federation is justifiably satisfied with its overall response and many of the activities carried out, certain weaknesses and failures have been identified, not least the poor reporting and feedback from the field. Efforts are underway to resolve these issues, and to reinforce the reporting mechanisms. The situation with the affected population has largely returned to a semblance of normalcy, though the volcanic threat remains real (among the number of other threats the residents of Goma face daily). The Disaster Preparedness work continues in preparation for the next situation.


On 17 January 2002 the highly active Nyiragongo volcano, a few kilometres north of the eastern Congolese town of Goma and just north of Lake Kivu, erupted with little advance warning. Two lava tongues reached Goma and divided the city into three parts. About fifteen percent of the town, especially the commercial area and much of the water and electricity supply, was destroyed by the lava flows and resulting fires and this was considerably less than initial reports were indicating. Five citizens died during the first hours of the disaster and 40 later on due to an explosion of a petrol station.

The lava flows triggered a massive exodus of the population from Goma, some going southwards inside DRC towards Saké, but the majority - perhaps up to 400,000 people - fled across the adjacent border into neighbouring Rwanda in the vicinity of Gisenyi. The branches of the National Red Cross Societies from Goma/DRC and Gisenyi/Rwanda provided first aid services and water supplies, with support from the ICRC sub-delegations.

Within hours of the eruption, the Rwanda Red Cross (RRCS) secretary-general issued a request for international assistance to the Africa Department in Geneva and the Regional Delegation in Nairobi, and a Regional Disaster Response Team (RDRT) was mobilised by the Regional Delegation Nairobi, arriving shortly after the alert. The RDRT and counterparts from the RRCS carried out an initial needs assessment. A Preliminary Appeal was issued by Geneva on 18 January. A few days later, a Field Assessment Coordination Team (FACT), which had been diverted from an ongoing mission in DR Congo's interior, also arrived in Kigali to undertake the more detailed cross-border needs assessment and then formulate the Plan of Action in support of the Full Appeal. The Rwandan government tasked the RRCS to manage one of a series of refugee camps for the displaced people, in addition to emergency relief distributions to those still on the move. In Kigali, the Country Delegation provided back-up support and a joint task force of all components of the movement coordinated the operational response from Kigali. A Full Appeal was issued eventually on 15 February

Within a few days it became clear that the massive influx of people into Rwanda would not be sustained, and many of the families had already started their return journey to DR Congo within the first week. It was very difficult to formulate a proper plan of action under these fast-changing circumstances. By this time the relief supply pipeline was well underway with non-food items from donor societies and governments, and distributions were continuing in Goma and on the Rwandan side of the border. The RRCS, with donor support, continued to operate the camp at Mudende (near Ruhengeri) until the last refugees went home in early June 2002.

The operation has been evaluated externally for capacity building within the Federation1. The unexpectedly rapid return of the majority of the refugees across the border to Goma a few days after the disaster posed a major challenge to all relief organisations to modify their strategies and change their role from pure relief to more capacity building in relief operations. It also caused considerable confusion when numbers and indeed plans had to be continually changed as the situation developed.

The context

Goma and the surrounding areas remain at risk from these volcanoes in the longer term. Nyiragongo last erupted seriously in 1994, and ongoing seismic and tectonic activities have continued since then. According to the experts future eruptions of the Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes could also prompt massive emissions of methane or CO2 gas from Lake Kivu which could have devastating consequences for the population at lower altitudes. The population does have a basic knowledge of the various risks but it is unlikely that about 500,000 citizens could be evacuated to any safe area in time. With assistance of UNDP and OCHA, a vulcanological monitoring system has been set up in the Virunga chain of volcanoes and around Lake Kivu to help improve early warning procedures.

The DRC authorities were certainly not prepared for this eventuality and the Rwandan government's new disaster preparedness policy, including an emergency response plan, was still on the drawing board. Consequently coordination of and with the authorities on both sides of the border was confused and frustrating. It was, for example, extremely difficult to identify a coherent policy regarding the issue of resettlement areas from the DRC authorities when it was clear the population was returning en masse and in need of an approved site for rebuilding their homes, and the Federation and ICRC therefore decided to limit their assistance to non-food inputs rather than the provision of shelter which had been planned originally.

Operational Developments

Objective 1: Support to the Democratic Republic of the Congo Red Cross Society

Results: The Goma branch has been supported in setting up a fast mobilisation and deployment system to be prepared for future volcanic eruptions. International delegates provided coaching during the operation in close coordination with ICRC and OCHA-Goma on contingency planning. Volunteer coordinators from Goma took part in an intensive training course on camp management organised by the Federation in Gisenyi in March and an evaluation workshop in August.

The Goma branch of the DRC Red Cross has received technical equipment (four motorcycles, mobile telephones etc), a 4WD vehicle, radio handsets, T-shirts for volunteers and logistical support for its activities in the distribution of non-food items. One Rubb-Hall tent has been constructed at its office. The DPP delegate of the Federation, presently based in Kigali, continues to coach and train the Goma branch of the DRC Red Cross coordinators and volunteers to consolidate their alert system, skills development and resource mobilisation. Efforts are concentrated on project planning and monitoring, drafting of contingency plans, coordinating with partners and drafting a long-term community-based disaster preparedness strategy.

Additionally, the Goma Volcano Observatory has also benefited from assistance through the Federation with the supply of two radio handsets to enable them to remain in contact with the Goma branch of the DRC Red Cross, as well as two motorcycles, three mobile telephones and a laptop computer.

Objective 2: Support to the Rwanda Red Cross in camp management for the displaced Congolese in Rwanda

With assistance of the Federation, the ICRC and the Belgian Red Cross on a bilateral basis, the RRCS successfully ensured the management of Mudende refugee camp at a former rural college campus near Ruhengeri for up to 25,000 refugees, although this number reduced after the first weeks. The infrastructure of the camp was rapidly set up according to SPHERE standards. No major health epidemic occurred in the camp due to the provision of professional water and sanitation services. Electricity and lighting was set up and a logistical and warehouse system established. The camp population was actively involved through a group of representatives in the management of security, education and distribution logistics.

When the last Congolese families left Mudende in early June, the operation was closed. However, the camp site in Mudende is part of the national contingency planning for any new eruption or population movement and can be reactivated in a few days. In the Rwandan government's new National Disaster Plan, the RRCS has been identified as the national agency responsible for shelter and camp management coordination in times of emergency, largely as a result of the positive impact they made during this operation.

Red Cross workers from Uganda and DRC participated in the pilot training course in Gisenyi organised by the Federation in March. RRCS staff have been trained on the job on camp management, and operational guidelines for camp coordination were produced with the support from Federation advisors from Tanzania and Kenya.

The Mudende health centre remains functioning for the local population, managed by the International Rescue Committee.

Objective 3: Support to Rwanda Red Cross to assist the population in Gisenyi affected by the eruption

Initial plans (as budgeted in the appeal) highlighted the need to assist with the repair of damaged and destroyed houses in the Gisenyi area. However, after a detailed evaluation in April, it was realised that damage to housing was mostly superficial and easily remedied by the house-owners themselves at little or no cost, and this plan was dropped. Instead, the Swiss Red Cross undertook to support the reconstruction of three school buildings instead which were badly damaged by the tremors. (The amount requested in the appeal for this activity was thus not spent.) This bilateral project is implemented in close cooperation with the local branches of RRCS, local construction companies and district authorities. The German Red Cross donated non-food items to the hospital in Ruhengiri which took care of refugees from Ruhengiri camp and assisted RRCS in implementing its activities in this camp.

A provisional warehouse was set up in Ruhengeri during the operation. All remaining relief goods were transferred to a rubb-hall store at the Rwanda Red Cross headquarters at the end of field activities in Mudende. For more details on this see section on "Relief Goods" on page 6.

Objective 4: Support to the affected population in Goma

Kigali remained the logistics centre for this operation, but with the agreement of the authorities, and the ICRC and Red Cross partners, the Federation assisted DRC Red Cross to support the return of families to Goma, providing over 6,500 families with non-food items shipped from Kigali and with basic health care services. Beneficiaries were identified and registered in cooperation with ICRC and received relief goods as indicated below:


In Rwanda:

Daily coordination meetings with the RRC leadership, PNS representatives, FACT and RDRT members, Federation Delegation and ICRC took place to harmonise decision making processes and to monitor the progress of the operation. A core group consisting of the RRCS secretary-general, the FACT leader, the Federation Representative and HoD ICRC was formed to coordinate leadership and political issues. This core group attended together the government's disaster management task force meetings in Kigali, coordinated by the Ministry for Local Affairs with the support by the OCHA and UNDP. Good coordination was also maintained with ICRC and other operating agencies at field level.

A number of bilateral PNSs already had a presence in Kigali, and these field delegates were quickly on the scene and providing information. However, this bilateral information was often inconsistent with the overall line the Federation had chosen to take following negotiations held with the authorities or other agencies to avoid overlap. The provision of food was one example of this: all required food was made available quickly by the World Food Programme, but one PNS had had separate discussions with its government to buy, transport, store and distribute food supplies. In the end this did not take place.

The RRCS has become the focal point for non-food items and camp management in the recently formed coordination structure, as a result of its good performance during the operation. The core group stayed during all phases of the operation in close touch with the Regional Delegation in Nairobi and the Disaster Management Division of the Federation in Geneva.

Throughout the operation, information has been extremely difficult to obtain and verify, for a number of reasons: the quick changes in population numbers, the actions by other players, the lack of strong governmental planning, the many players involved, the cross-border context, and so on. Indeed this Final Report has been delayed due to the difficulty in obtaining any consistently reliable information from the field, particularly the distribution figures. While this is one area touched on in the Evaluation Report, it is an acknowledged failure in the system.

In Goma:

ICRC was the lead agency in Goma according to the Seville Agreement; the Federation played a leading role in the provision of assistance through DRC Red Cross and attempted coordination of the bilateral PNSs. A joint statement (Federation/ICRC) was provided to clarify details of the operational coordination. DRC Red Cross cooperated closely with the local disaster coordination mechanism with other international NGOs and OCHA. Contact was improved during the last phases of the operation with the Federation delegations in Kinshasa and Yaounde. It is hoped that through the efforts of the DPP delegate and the cross-border workshops and meetings now underway, future cooperation and coordination between the various branches will be stronger than in the past.

Strong cooperation is being developed between the Red Cross Movement and the Observatoire de Volcanologie de Goma. Frequent coordination meetings and joint trainings are organized alternatively in Goma branch office and at the OVG headquarters. With support from the American Red Cross, the Federation donated (in early December 2002) to the Observatoire two motorbikes, a laptop computer, two radio handsets and two mobile phones to increase its early warning capacities. The Observatoire is the most important provider of early warning information to Goma branch and the authorities in regard to volcanic risk monitoring.

In Geneva:

A Task Force was rapidly assembled and there was good coordination between the DMC, the regional department and ICRC. Two tele-conferences with all major Red Cross donors and an Information Meeting were held in the early stages of the operation.

Objectives, activities and results

The initial emergency, not so much the volcano itself but the mass movement of up to half a million people, would have stretched to the limits any response system, and certainly in Goma and Rwanda this is what happened. In the first hours and days we were looking at responding to a massive refugee population in need of all the usual relief materials; a few days later it was becoming clearer that this would not be the case, and we should be looking at rehabilitation activities on the Congo side of the border. Information from all sources was scant and confused; comprehensive reporting to donors therefore suffered. Requested flexibility for the use of donated materials was often constrained by the various governments' criteria, and this made it more complicated still.

Health and care

This was not a major factor at the time of the eruption: it was a healthy population who fled rather than people weakened by drought or famine. Food and drinking water was made available quickly to supplement what the refugees had carried with them. First aid posts were quickly established along the roads and the Red Cross branches & their volunteers did an excellent job with these services. At Mudende, a clinic was established for the now-static population. No outbreaks of disease occurred.

Water and sanitation

Improvements were carried out to the facilities at Mudende once the RRCS became involved in running this camp. The French Red Cross worked with the ICRC in repairing water treatment facilities in Goma, which had largely been destroyed by the lava flows.

Relief distribution of food and basic non-food items

The change in the situation after the first few days meant that some of the goods requested in the appeal were often irrelevant by the time the reached the field. This is unfortunate (and easy to criticise with hindsight) but strengthens the argument for as much donor flexibility as possible.

A Logistics Emergency Response Unit (ERU) from the British Red Cross arrived in Kigali quickly and greatly assisted the tracking, clearance and forwarding of the arriving goods. Logistics and relief delegates also ensured close monitoring of the goods and well-run distributions. However, competition between agencies responding to immediate and localised needs meant that a complex supply pipeline was far less reactive to the changing needs, and the Red Cross distribution plans had to be continually amended. Bilateral interests and poor coordination also led to some confusion within the Red Cross movement. There was insufficient knowledge available to the RRCS and other partners about the capacities of the local market: it was realised later that some items which had been flown in from outside Rwanda were in fact available at a similar quality from a local company. A database of the local market is being developed as part of the DP programme.

All goods remaining at the end of the operation were stored in Goma on the Congo side of the border in a rub-hall tent provided as part of the appeal. In Rwanda, all goods were brought back to Kigali and stored in another rub-hall tent on the RRCS compound. The proposal was to use these items as the basis for a regional disaster stock, although in the meantime some were requested by the Rwandan authorities for use in an internal displacement situation. The respective donors gave their approval for these items to be used. However, uncertainty about the possibility of re-exporting the remaining items to a neighbouring country in case of need, the question of who controls them and the fact that the stock would have to be enhanced considerably (and expensively) to maintain a realistic level have led to a rethink on this plan. Framework agreements exist in other parts of East Africa and this is considered a better and more economic reality at this stage. A list of the remaining items is shown in the table below:

Individual donors will be contacted in due course for their approval on the eventual use of these donated items.


Tents were requested in the initial appeal and many were supplied through the logistics pipeline, in the expectation that large camps would have to be established. Although many were used by displaced families, with the changed circumstances, it became clear that this was not - in the longer term - the most appropriate or cost-effective input, but by the time this was realised the tents were already en route. Certainly many were used in the Mudende camp for sheltering of families, but they were not collected back on their departure.

Mudende itself, using the buildings of a former technical college, was adequate for the refugees and facilities were enhanced through the provision of better water and sanitation systems, plus electricity and improved security, and tents were used for additional accommodation as numbers increased.

On the Goma side, because of the political implications of being involved in site selection for resettlement areas, an issue generating much debate amongst the Goma authorities, the Federation and ICRC declined to become involved and did not provide shelter inputs to these areas.

Advocacy and protection

Certain PNS donors insisted that their donated goods be distributed even when the relief teams on the ground said these particular items were not required at that time. We feel the PNSs have a responsibility in these situations to explain the reality to their governments, and to insist on more flexibility due to changing circumstances.

The RRCS and Goma Branch assisted in the reunification of split families and the care of unaccompanied minors. Tracing activities were supported by the ICRC.

Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement -- Fundamental Principles and priorities w

Intense media reporting on the situation and images of other agencies "distributing" goods in bulk from the backs of trucks strengthened the resolve of the Red Cross to undertake their activities more professionally, following proper needs assessments and in direct relation to the real needs of individuals. This caused some criticism, but we feel was the right decision at the time.

National Society Capacity Building

The country delegation provided ongoing support to the Rwandan Red Cross on programme coordination, financial management and strategic planning during the relief operation. The team was reinforced by administration and reporting delegates from the Secretariat in Geneva, the RDN Nairobi and by FACT members. They trained RRCS local staff on the job in office management and operations coordination. The Federation Representative acted as the link between the components of the Red Cross movement and conducted action research on the progress and perception of the operation by different stakeholders involved. This data was subsequently used to contribute to the external evaluation, as well as knowledge sharing and leadership trainings at regional and international levels.

This operation has clearly demonstrated how difficult it is to link relief and capacity building in a customer friendly, sustainable and efficient way in complex emergencies. The Evaluation Report includes recommendations on how to prepare and involve relief delegates more systematically for capacity building during emergency operations.

The telecommunications system of RRCS was rehabilitated and Telecom sans Frontières/France, provided through cooperation with French Red Cross, including training to staff in Kigali and at branch level. As a follow-up to this, as part of the ongoing DP work, a telecommunications specialist from the Burundi Red Cross has recently been in Rwanda and Goma to install equipment, undertake a comprehensive inventory and to make recommendations for necessary future work to enhance and develop the radio networks.

Assessment and lessons learned

The operation led to a number of insights on how regional response mechanisms need to be strengthened, synchronised and how they can be complemented by international instruments like FACT. Integrated Federation country offices or sub-delegations play a linking and capacity building role during relief and need to be prepared to recognised for this function.

During the operation a number of strengths and weaknesses in the coordination within the movement in a complex emergency became visible. The interaction between regional and international response mechanisms like FACT and RDRT was tested. The national societies in Rwanda and Goma demonstrated their capability to provide efficient first aid services and manage refugee operations with support of its international partners successfully. PNSs have contributed to this operation with human and financial resources and achieved high media coverage at home, which helped the resource mobilisation for the operation.

The critical evaluation of the operation emphasized the need for improved donor coordination and more discipline at the field level. To give one example, while Geneva was calling for better coordination, there was at one point 26 "delegates" in Kigali, most sent bilaterally by their own National Societies without adequate coordination, many of whom were under-utilized and often frustrated, as well as creating additional demands on the RRCS and the Federation Delegation, with consequent questions on a rational approach to the use of resources. This was considered unfortunate, and from an external perspective raised pertinent issues related to the wider Federation working effectively together.

The report2 concludes that "The Goma Volcano Operation was problematic for a number of reasons. It was carried out against the backdrop of an extremely complex political and security environment. All humanitarian agencies were caught off-guard by the timing and speed of the mass return of refugees back across the border into Democratic Republic of Congo, which began the day after their exodus into Rwanda. Overall, the Federation's volcano operation was moderately successful. The Federation mounted a rapid, substantial and relatively well-coordinated response. The operations carried out by the Federation on both sides of the Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo border appear to have been well run. The logistics operation was efficient. The Federation coordinated the various National Society inputs, though this process was difficult because of the unexpected return of refugees to Goma where ICRC has Lead Agency Status and because of the presence of many Red Cross actors. At the same time, this operation has highlighted important shortcomings in systems for the management and coordination of Federation disaster response and suggested that some of these problems experienced are both well known and long term. Most of the problems encountered related to internal coordination, management and reporting and it is unlikely that beneficiaries were adversely impacted by them to any significant extent because of the over-supply of international assistance to the area".

Both local National Societies have strengthened their public image vis-à-vis their population and their governments as reliable partners in DPR. Direct donations from diplomatic missions and commercial enterprises in the region are a reaction to improved public relations of the Federation in emergency management.

Current situation

Although the emergency phase of this operation is finished, this part of Africa lives with very many potential problems, both natural and man-made. As a continuation of the work started during the response phase, a disaster preparedness delegate has been posted to Kigali since mid-2002 to work with the branches in Goma and around Rwanda to strengthen their knowledge and capacities to respond next time. It is planned that he will continue this cross-border role, although in 2003 he will begin to integrate the Goma branch activities into a wider Congo DPP plan.

With support from the DP delegate, the Goma branch has developed an Action Plan for 2002 and 2003 on the basis of the inter-agency contingency plan for Goma and Gisenyi. The plan is now in the process of being implemented through the nomination of members onto the provincial disaster management team, the registration of all first aid volunteers, the identification and localization of the most vulnerable communities and the training of more than 500 volunteers who will prepare the population for an eventual evacuation. The branch has also developed a draft Red Cross disaster preparedness strategy mainly based on the mobilization of Red Cross volunteers and community leaders to prepare for natural disasters and epidemics. This draft strategy is now being discussed with ICRC, the Observatoire de Volcanologie and the Goma authorities.

Financial situation

The budget as presented in the Full Appeal (CHF 4,802,000) was 80% met, raising CHF 3,843,781 in a combination of cash, services and goods in kind. A detailed breakdown is given in the attached annex. The shortfall includes the amount budgeted for the housing rehabilitation work in Gisenyi which is not proceeding (see above). No further funds are required. This Final Report includes details and financial information up to and including 31 October 2002, and shows a remaining cash balance of CHF 193,360. This positive balance (plus a new pledge (December 2002), from Norway of funds raised earlier in the year is programmed for the ongoing work of the disaster preparedness delegate and related activities in Rwanda and the Goma region into 2003, for which a detailed workplan exists. Although this emergency project account is being closed at this time, the CHF 193,360 will be carried forward to support the ongoing activities and future reporting on the activities (and the corresponding financial reporting) will continue in the regular Programme Updates against the Annual Appeals for both countries.

A financial and logistics audit of this operation (up to 31 October 2002) is being planned for the end of 2002 or early 2003.

For further details please contact: Martin Fisher, Phone : +41 22 730 4440 (for Rwanda); and Terry Carney, phone +41 22 730 4298 (for DRC). Fax: +41 22 733 03 95; email: or

All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. The procurement for this operation was carried out in full compliance and conformity with the Federation's standard for international and local procurement.

For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at

This operation sought to administer to the immediate requirements of the victims of this disaster. Subsequent operations to promote sustainable development or long-term capacity building will require additional support, and these programmes are outlined on the Federation's website.

John Horekens
Division of External Relations

Bekele Geleta
Africa Department

1 This report ("Evaluation of the Goma Volcano Operation", Final Report, September 2002) is available separately if requested.
2 "Evaluation of the Goma Volcano Operation", Final Report, September 2002; Simon Lawry-White

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