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Nearly 416 000 people displaced after eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, DR Congo

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has estimated the total number of displaced people linked to the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo on May 22, 2021, to be 415 700, with 47% of them children. In the city of Goma, more than 500 000 people have been left without access to clean drinking water while some 350 000 people are estimated to be in urgent need of assistance. A mass evacuation order was issued on May 27 after seismicity and soil deformation data indicated the presence of magma under the urban area of Goma with an extension under Lake Kivu.

While some residents are starting to return to the city of Goma, the total number of displaced people due to the deadly eruption of Nyiragongo and subsequent seismicity was estimated at 415 700 as of June 1.

Residents are spread across more than 10 areas in the interior of the country (Bukavu Ville, Idjwi, Kalehe (Minova), Kabare, Masisi (Sake), Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, Lubero, Goma, Butembo) and in neighboring Rwanda.

Displaced persons in some areas are having difficulty finding housing, UN OCHA said.

IOM said it's particularly concerned by the health hazards linked to the eruption itself, the displacement to areas with pre-existing outbreaks, the lack of access to clean water, and the increased burden placed on health facilities.  

To address the risk of outbreaks – in particular cholera – and mental health and psychosocial needs, IOM is boosting disease surveillance efforts among displaced and host communities, looking for ways to scale up services, and supporting health facilities through donations, training, and more.

The UNHCR spokesperson Jackie Keegan said at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva that some 350 000 people in Goma are estimated to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The city has experienced more than a thousand earthquakes and tremors following the eruption, most of them small, but some strong enough to level buildings.

Many people’s houses were destroyed by the lava flow, but many more had to leave following the evacuation order for the eight areas of Goma that are most at risk if another eruption hits the city.

"The earthquakes have become less intense, but there are still questions about magma streams under the city. If and when a return to Goma will be possible, rebuilding will be challenging – the city is at the foot of an active volcano and on a shifting rift," Keegan said.

Featured image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, TW

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