MSF Expands Emergency Medical Relief to Congolese Displaced by Volcanic Eruption

New York/Gisenyi, January 19, 2002 — The international medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today expanded its operations in western Rwanda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in order to assist the population displaced by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in Goma, DRC. Emergency aid, including medical supplies, shelter, and water sanitation material, has been sent from the Rwandan capital Kigali to the western town of Gysenyi. An international team of MSF volunteers is already at work in Gysenyi to support people fleeing Goma. An additional MSF team is to join them tomorrow.

MSF has already installed water bladders on the outskirts of Gysenyi in the direction of Ruhengeri to supply clean drinking water to the displaced. MSF will also work in two former refugee camps close to Gysenyi—in Mudende and Nkamira—where tens of thousands of refugees can be hosted. MSF will provide health care, sanitation, and water.

The MSF teams on the ground continue to monitor the local health situation in order to be ready to provide extra support in case of disease outbreaks. Two cases of measles were already confirmed in Nyundo and the MSF team is planning a vaccination campaign to stem further spread of the disease.

Tremors continue and the population is hesitant to return to Goma and remain in Gysenyi.

The current volcano crisis only adds to the desperate humanitarian problems people in the eastern DRC have been facing for years. Hunger, displacement, lack of health care, and epidemic diseases are facts of life in this war-torn region of the country.

MSF already runs a number of relief programs in eastern DRC, including basic health care, nutrition, and epidemic disease outbreak control programs, as well as an STD/HIV/AIDS care and prevention program. MSF is also active in Rwanda and has considerable emergency stocks in the region. This has helped the organization respond quickly to this latest emergency.