rocking Rwanda and Congo Friday compounded the misery of
those without homes or livelihood after the eruption of
Mount Nyiragongo Jan. 17.
In Congo, the quakes were leveling many homes and
buildings that escaped the lava flow. And in Rwanda,
some government reports indicated more than a thousand
homes had collapsed.
Mount Nyiragongo's eruption last week destroyed nearly
half the city of Goma, sending hundreds of thousands of
people fleeing across the border to Rwanda. According to
volcano researchers, earthquakes could continue as long
as magma is settling in the mountain.
Most of the 500,000 people that fled Congo are back in
the country but many are posed to evacuate again in the
face of another eruption or stronger earthquakes. There
are conflicting reports from officials as to whether the
volcano still poses a threat.
People returning to Goma are trying to check on their
properties and salvage what they can, reported the
Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Many have homes that
may have escaped destruction because they're located on
the far side of the lava flow. But it's still extremely
dangerous to travel across the lava, which may not have
A cold, heavy rain Friday was further burdening
humanitarian response efforts.
More than 15,000 evacuees are still in Rwanda, many of
them seeking shelter in Methodist, Episcopalian, and
Presbyterian churches in the Gisenyi area.
The uncertainty that grips the region is not only
emotionally taxing for residents but is logistically
challenging for relief workers, said Judith Melby of
Christian Aid. "People have to be registered. Aid
agencies need to know where people are and what they
need," she said. "If there were more tremors or
eruptions here in Goma, then we don't know whether
people will flee over the border again."
Many faith-based disaster response agencies are
funneling their efforts through Action by Churches
Together (ACT), a worldwide network of church-related
agencies that coordinates emergency humanitarian
In Goma, ACT partners are providing water, food, plastic
sheeting, blankets, and cooking utensils for some 60,000
people, particularly children and the elderly. ACT is
also providing water tanks as well as units for water
purification, piping, pumping, and sanitation.
Government officials in Goma have designated five
distribution points for food and other relief goods
while Rwandan officials have designated three such
In Rwanda, ACT is distributing food and relief goods in
Ruhengeri and Gisenyi.
ACT partners report it is difficult to get food into
Goma. The airport was partially destroyed by lava, and
many roads are blocked or in a state of disrepair.
According to LWF, establishing feeding centers and
kitchens is crucial since many people no longer have a
way to prepare or cook food. There is also a shortage of
firewood in the region.
Water provision also remains a priority, with ACT
reporting that only half of the existing permanent water
supply system is functioning in Goma, and that many
distribution channels are broken. Water continues to be
transported to various distribution points.
Christian Aid, LWF, Norwegian Church Aid, and Protestant
Council of Rwanda are among the ACT partners responding
locally. Many staff members from these groups are
expressing the willingness and ability to help in spite
of having damaged or destroyed homes and offices
Many faith-based disaster response groups sent emergency
grants toward ACT's efforts, and most indicated plans to
send additional funds. Lutheran World Relief provided an
initial grant of $25,000. The United Church of Christ
The threat of cholera looms, and a few cases have been
identified. There have been reports of Goma residents
using a local lake for drinking, cooking, and bathing
even though lava has poured into the lake. The tainted
water poses a risk for the spread of both cholera and
Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA) sent shipments of
medicines to Goma from its offices in both the U.S. and
in Congo's capital city of Kinshasa. Church World
Service (CWS) contributed $10,000 toward shipping costs.
Last year IMA rehabilitated many medical clinics in
Congo, including one near Goma that is still functioning
after the eruption.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is also focusing on
health-related response by providing the salary and
transportation costs for a Congolese doctor who will
coordinate a health-related response in Goma.
The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Adventist
Development and Relief Committee, and Baptist World Aid
are also involved with relief efforts.
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