On Tuesday 25th May, in the early morning, local authorities ordered the evacuation of large parts of Goma due to the threat of another eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano. Since the eruption on 23rd May, the entire region has been shaken by strong earthquakes every minute, which have already caused damage to buildings and torn up roads.
The seven international team members of Johanniter International Assistance on site were therefore evacuated to Rwanda on 26th May. The remaining 50 national staff members are now on their way with their families to other regions. “There is chaos in many places. Tens of thousands of people have packed the essentials and are on their way out on foot, by motorcycle or car. No one knows where to find shelter or where it is even safe. No reception camps have been set up yet. No one is prepared to take in so many fleeing people immediately,” reported Melanie Plöger, senior program manager for Johanniter in Congo.
“Experts fear that in the worst-case scenario, underground lava flows will release large amounts of methane in Lake Kivu. That would be a disaster beyond all expectations for the region. This is because all oxygen from the air would be extracted, and everything living in the vicinity would immediately suffocate,” said Florian Meyer, program officer for Congo at Johanniter.
The volcanic eruption is hitting a country struggling with one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. More than 27 million people are facing acute food insecurity, according to UN figures. Seven million people are facing famine. The economic problems and socio-economic consequences caused by COVID-19 are compounding the ongoing hardship. Johanniter has been working in the medical field in North Kivu for 27 years. In the past, they have built or rehabilitated more than 20 health posts and regularly support them with medicines, equipment, and staff salaries.