By Vatican News staff reporter
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and at least 30 have died after the Nyiragongo volcano erupted on 22 May. As the humanitarian situation worsens in the city of Goma, in the east of the country, the Bishop there is asking for help from the local government and the international community.
Appeal for help
“We ask all people of good will” – says the bishop of Goma, Willy Ngumbi Ngengele – “to support our people who are fleeing in all directions because of the threats of another eruption”.
The local government, has not ruled out new volcanic activity and is urging residents to leave the area, for their own safety.
However, the announcement by the authorities has sparked panic among the people. Nelson Mantama, head of Social Communications for the Youth Ministry of the Diocese of Goma says, “hundreds of thousands of inhabitants fled in different directions: some went to Rwanda, others to Bukavo, others still headed to North Kivu”, leaving their homes completely abandoned. Numerous children have also been lost or are missing, while the most vulnerable citizens have been exposed to more risks.”
Looming humanitarian crisis
In addition, in the cities and areas that receive displaced persons, the humanitarian crisis is growing: “There is a lack of water and food” – explains Mr Mantama – “and there are not enough sanitation facilities for all.”
He goes on to say that the local Church, through Caritas in Goma, is doing what it can, “committing all its logistical means to facilitate, with its trucks, the distribution of basic necessities” and to maintain contact “with displaced families”, so that they can return home, as soon as possible. But, he stresses, the help of the international community is needed to “take control of this disaster and save our people.”
Assisting the displaced
The Bishop of Goma is also emphasizing the importance of assisting displaced people, inviting priests and religious to “make available to vulnerable people the necessary means of transport” and urging, at the same time, the faithful to “respect the decisions of the authorities, because the volcano is unpredictable.”
For its part, the National Episcopal Conference (Cenco) has expressesed “solidarity and spiritual closeness to the local population”: In a statement, the bishops say, they “are deeply saddened by this disaster that occurred in the context of a crisis caused by insecurity in the province of North Kivu and the Covid-19 pandemic. They also express hope for “an outpouring of collective solidarity” that “will take shape in humanitarian actions in favour of our brothers and sisters affected by these tragic events.