The Nyiragongo volcano erupted on May 22, spewing lava over neighboring villages and causing reverberating tremors throughout the region. Jérémy Mouton, Humanity & Inclusion’s Emergency Watch and Preparedness Officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, gives an update on the humanitarian crisis now facing the people of Goma:
In Goma, many people displaced by the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano are starting to return to the city due to a lack of reception areas and access to services in displacement zones where temporary shared shelters have been set up. And, because they’re afraid their homes in Goma will be broken into, they want to return as soon as possible.
Although some businesses have reopened and transportation services are up and running again, many homes have been destroyed or damaged.
The needs of people affected by the disaster are immense. They are unable to access health care, housing, water, sanitary facilities and food—neither in Goma nor in displacement areas. Displacement has also given rise to overcrowding, lack of privacy, separation of family members and other factors that have exposed people—particularly women, children and people with disabilities—to risk of violence and abuse.
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1995 and is currently providing response in aid to people in North Kivu. The organization is coordinating a fleet of trucks for humanitarian organizations to deliver supplies to people who need them most. Humanity & Inclusion is also planning to provide psychosocial support to people affected by the disaster and to distribute kits containing essential household items such as tarps and blankets to make the return home easier.
Democratic Republic of the Congo | Volcanic eruption leaves families displaced, in need of essentials
Humanity & Inclusion is providing aid to the most vulnerable people displaced by the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano near Goma in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province.
Having left behind or lost their homes and belongings, thousands of families are now without basic necessities or income. Many are living in unsanitary conditions in a region already facing an alarming humanitarian situation, including the presence of numerous armed groups and food insecurity.
The needs are immense. People affected by the eruption face poor access to drinking water and sanitary facilities, food insecurity, the risk of cholera, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1995, and is responding to assist the most vulnerable people in North Kivu. The organization's logistics experts are also coordinating a fleet of trucks to deliver Humanity & Inclusion supplies, as well as those from other humanitarian organizations.
In this anxiety-inducing climate, Humanity & Inclusion will provide psychological support to impacted people. Teams will also distribute kits containing essential household items such as tarps, blankets, pots and pans, and soap to those in need over the coming weeks.
Three weeks after the volcano’s eruption, earthquakes are less frequent in Goma and displaced people are returning home. In some of the worst-hit neighborhoods, however, homes have been destroyed, water pipes burst and other damage has been reported. According to the Office of Volcanology in Goma, another eruption is still a possibility.
Trésor calls his brace “libende,” which means “piece of iron” in the Lingala language. Trésor is fond of the brace, which has helped him live a normal life after he contracted polio when he was 3. He’s 12 now.
One of nine children, Trésor and his family live among the sprawling suburbs of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Trésor’s mother sells biscuits on the side of the road.
When Trésor was 3, he came down with a bad fever and his parents rushed him to the hospital.
“I remember when my little brother got polio like it was yesterday,” said Nsumbu-Mateka, Trésor’s older brother. “It wasn’t long before we realized Trésor would never regain the use of his left leg. We were so shocked. He couldn't play or run around like before. Our parents were really unhappy about it but there was nothing they could do.”
After Trésor lost use of his leg and his ability to walk, Nsumbu-Mateka saw that he wasn’t able to participate in every day activities.
"There are a lot of people like my brother around here, but unfortunately most never leave home,” Nsumbu-Mateka explained. “The children don’t go to school. They can’t move around, and in some ways, they’re excluded from the community."
Wanting better for his younger brother, Nsumbu-Mateka began looking into educational opportunities for Trésor. He learned of a school in their neighborhood that accepts children with disabilities. Thanks to his brother’s advocacy, Trésor attended his first day of school when he was 9. That’s where Trésor met Humanity & Inclusion’s team, which works to promote school enrollment for children with disabilities.
Through its inclusive education project, Humanity & Inclusion ensures that schools are accessible for children with reduced mobility, trains teachers to adapt their lessons for students with disabilities, and works to provide individual support to children with disabilities.
Trésor was one of those children. Humanity & Inclusion arranged for Trésor to visit a local orthopedic center, where he received a pair of crutches, a brace, and a custom-made orthopedic shoe. Through donor support, Humanity & Inclusion continues to work with Trésor, providing the growing boy on average two new braces each year.
Now, with his “libende” and crutches, Trésor walks 45 minutes to school each day. He particularly loves calculus and French, and dreams of becoming a doctor one day so he can care for others. His classmates are amazed by his willpower and happy to call him their friend.
Trésor loves spending time with his family, especially his brother, Nsumbu-Mateka. He plays games and draws cartoons. But most of all, Trésor enjoys paying a few cents to rent a bike and showing the other children that he can ride a bike, just like them.
First photo: A young boy named Trésor crouches down while playing a game with bottle caps outside his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has a big smile. He is wearing a bright blue plaid shirt, jeans, blue and black tennis shoes, and a brace on his left leg.
Second photo: Trésor sits on a table and has his foot measured during a consultation with Humanity & Inclusion staff. His is wearing a white shirt and shorts. He is barefoot.
Third photo: Trésor sits in a chair, holding a yellow soccer ball. He has a big smile. He is wearing a bright blue plaid shirt, jeans, blue and black tennis shoes, and a brace on his left leg. His crutches are leaning on the wall beside him.
Following ongoing clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 10,000 people have left South Kivu and are taking refuge in south-western Burundi. Humanity & Inclusion (which works under the operating name “Handicap International” in Burundi) is on the ground, assisting the most vulnerable, including thousands of unaccompanied children.
“We are preparing to implement protection activities targeted at the most vulnerable people, particularly children, who account for more than 65% of refugees,” explains Audrey Lecomte, HI’s Head of Mission in Burundi. “Many of them arrived without their parents and are particularly at risk from violence, exploitation, or abandonment. We want to protect girls and women by providing them with psychological support and making them aware of the risk of violence. HI needs funding to launch its emergency response.”
“The needs of refugees in transitional camps are considerable. These camps are designed to provide very temporary accommodation and are now operating beyond full capacity. Access to services such as health care and aid remains extremely limited given the needs of these refugees.
“Many people without shelter sleep grouped together in hangars. The shortage of water and sanitary facilities, such as toilets, has increased the risk of a cholera epidemic. The most vulnerable people including children, women, older people, and people with disabilities are particularly at risk. We’re expecting to see a new influx of refugees in the weeks ahead.”
Our work in Burundi
Present in Burundi since 1992, HI helps ensure people with disabilities have access to basic services and rehabilitation and are involved in their social and economic environments. Learn more about our work in Burundi.
More than two million people have been affected by the humanitarian crisis in Grand Kasai, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Handicap International has sent emergency specialists to support its existing teams in the field. Sulu Bellarmin, who works as both the organization’s driver and logistics assistant, tells us about life in Kasai.
What impact has this crisis had on local people?
There’s a strong climate of insecurity: people are being murdered, raped, and their homes are being destroyed or robbed – everyone’s afraid. Thousands of people have been displaced, some have taken refuge with relatives, and others are living in makeshift accommodation in rural areas. Economically, the railway that transported food in to Kananga is no longer operating and prices have skyrocketed. Because of the insecurity, people no longer sell food to families by bicycle. There’s a severe shortage of medication, food, and essential items, such as hygiene products. The situation is critical.
How has your family been affected?
My family and I have been very badly affected. We’d never experienced a conflict before, with bullets coming at you from all sides. We go days without food or sleep, and worry that maybe there’s going to be an attack in our neighborhood, which is getting emptier by the day. We have been displaced to a more expensive and smaller house, where we’re relatively safe. Things are very worrying.
What are working conditions like?
We’re all working under pressure in a tense situation. I’ve been involved in the logistics side of things: purchasing, accommodation and supplier research – since the start of the emergency response, and I still work as a driver. Handicap International’s emergency response is meant to help victims of this crisis, particularly by providing rehabilitation care to casualties and getting humanitarian aid to remote areas. It puts my mind at ease to know that I’m helping the most vulnerable people. That’s one of my top priorities.
Learn more: Handicap International in Kasai
Present in Kasai since 2015, Handicap International has sent a team of emergency specialists to expand its response to this crisis. The organization also provides rehabilitation care, distributes walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility aids, and provides psychological support to victims. The organization also assesses the situation facing the victims of violence in order to better protect them and to train local organizations to identify the most vulnerable people. Handicap International helps to transport humanitarian aid to people living in areas that are difficult to access or unsafe. Lastly, Handicap International is also planning to distribute food and essential household items, such as cooking utensils and hygiene kits with soap, to thousands of affected families.
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to supporting people who are fleeing conflict and natural disaster. Whether they are sheltering within their own countries or residing in countries of first asylum as refugees, our teams are hard at work providing basic and specific aid to people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. Read about our work with refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) as well as our other projects in the 11 countries below.
This life-saving work is possible thanks to the generous support of our donors, as well as key funding agencies such as the U.S. Department of State, IKEA Foundation, among others.
Humanity & Inclusion is an impartial, international aid organization, and we act where needs are greatest. We do not work on refugee resettlement.
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