July 25, 2021

“Gradual return” of the displaced near the Nyiragongo volcano

The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced Monday, June 7 a “Gradual return” tens of thousands of displaced people who left Goma, in the east of the country, after an eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano on May 22.

“To date, we have decided on the gradual return of the displaced persons according to the plan which will be given by the military governor”, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lunkonde Kyenge said at a press conference in Goma.

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His government estimates at 16 billion Congolese francs (nearly 7 million euros) the cost of emergency aid (food, transport, health) to displaced people who are going to return. “Two weeks later, the seismic situation has changed for the better. It allows us to look to the future with less worry ”, added the head of government.

An eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano north of Goma on May 22 killed at least 32 people according to the official toll and destroyed hundreds of houses (between 900 and 2,500 according to humanitarian estimates).

Risks of cholera and tuberculosis

In total, nearly 400,000 people have been displaced, especially from May 27, for fear of new eruptions that could have caused the eruption of lava in the city itself or the explosion of “Gas pockets” methane under Lake Kivu, endangering the lives of populations.

The government then announced the evacuation “Preventive” ten of the eighteen neighborhoods of Goma, a city of at least 600,000 inhabitants, a surprise decision that resulted in the sudden exodus of the vast majority of them.

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The Minister of Public Health will study “The health situation of the displaced throughout the process of their return”, continued the Prime Minister, pointing to the risks of “Cholera” and of “Tuberculosis”. Following him, the military governor, General Contant Ndima, announced the reopening of schools in Goma from June 14.

Mr. Sama Lunkonde Kyenge, who is staying in Goma accompanied by a dozen ministers, announced on his arrival on Saturday the reopening of the airport, closed since May 22. “The sites that were devastated by the volcano should no longer be occupied by the population. We must learn the lessons of the eruption of 2002 and that of 2021 so that our populations are never again so close to danger ”, added the Prime Minister. The eruption of January 2002 killed around 100 people.

The World with AFP