IRC Rushes Aid To Victims of Goma Volcano; Gates Foundation Provides Emergency Funding
The International Rescue Committee is on the ground in Rwanda and Congo, rushing lifesaving assistance to tens of thousands of people who have fled the eastern Congo city of Goma to escape Thursday's devastating volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo.
With $500,000 in emergency funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation , the IRC is launching a broad relief effort to respond to the most grave and immediate threats to life.
"The Congolese and the Rwandans have been through hell in the last decade," said Reynold Levy, the IRC's president. "We want do everything humanly possible to see them through this latest ordeal."
The IRC's emergency activities will include:
- Water & Sanitation - IRC staff in eastern Congo and in Gisenyi, Rwanda are on the scene to begin trucking critical water supplies to the displaced. Supplies are en route to construct water distribution points and emergency latrines.
- Basic Healthcare - IRC's healthcare staff in the region are relocating to areas where the newly displaced are settling, to treat diarrhea, malaria, respiratory infections, dehydration and other illnesses.
- Shelter - The IRC is procuring plastic sheeting and basic construction materials to provide temporary shelter to needy populations.
- Child Tracing - In the chaos of the rushed evacuation, many children may have been separated from their parents. The IRC is dispatching experienced teams to the area to identify and assist traumatized and separated children and reunify them with their families.
An estimated 500,000 Goma residents scattered across the region. IRC staff members report that many who fled to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi are already returning to Congo.
"The situation for the displaced is really serious," says the IRC's director in Rwanda, Lizanne McBride. "And many of the displaced in Congo are now heading toward areas that have been ravaged by war and where resources are already scarce." But McBride said the IRC's emergency teams have been mobilized and are ready to provide assistance wherever Goma's displaced end up - in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo or elsewhere in the region.
"This is a huge humanitarian crisis and lives, livelihoods, the environment and regional stability are threatened," said Levy. "But given the IRC's significant presence in the region, we're in a good position to respond to critical needs and the Gates Foundation's rapid and generous donation will strengthen our ability to do so."