January 18, 2002
Tens of thousands have fled from a river of molten rock near the eastern city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Mount Nyiragongo erupted in the early morning of January 18, causing a 150-foot wide torrent of lava that incinerated everything in its path, setting much of Goma aflame. People fled to the nearby towns of Gisenyi, just across the border in Rwanda, and Sake, west of Goma. A three-person Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team working in Goma was forced to evacuate and has reached Gisenyi unharmed.
MSF was requested to participate in the relief efforts, and have sent personnel, medical supplies, and water/sanitation materials to help the team already at Gisenyi. An emergency relief team and supplies was also dispatched to nearby Sake. The most pressing concern will be meeting people's water and sanitation needs, and MSF will closely monitor for any disease outbreaks.
The current disaster presents a terrible burden to a population already reeling from a decade of man-made crises. Many of those living in the Goma area were already displaced by successive civil wars. The health-care infrastructure has been shattered, leading to an overall lack of basic medical care, recurring epidemics, and hunger. A recent MSF report found catastrophic mortality rates in five health zones throughout the DRC. And while MSF operates relief programs in many parts of the country, the unstable political situation often makes it difficult for aid to reach people in need.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)