At Goma volcano site, MSF focuses on water and prevention

The initial MSF assessment in the city of Goma, DRC shows that 20-35% of the city has been destroyed or touched by the lava that followed the eruption of Mount Nyirangongo on Thursday, January 17, 2001.

Despite authorities having declared the city unsafe for at least another ten days, people have already started returning and are doing so in mass. The MSF team estimates that some 80% of those who fled are making their way back. Unconfirmed figures have the total number of displaced and on the move at over 400,000.

The larger part of Goma is still standing. Lava has devastated primarily the commercial and residential center but more populous areas have remained intact. There is still a great deal of smoke over the area.

MSF immediate current activity is focused on water sanitation and distribution as the water supply may be contaminated by the flow of lava into the river there. Staff have already has installed three water bladders - each with a 15,000 liters capacity - at the border. A fourth has been dispatched.

In Gysenyi, the two water facilities are out of order - the cause is unknown but is likely due to the ongoing tremors. MSF, along with the ICRC and Prefecture Kigalli, have sent water trucks to Ruhenger to assist in water supply - but the capacity still has to be reinforced. The MSF water trucks are expected to arrive tomorrow (January 22).

MSF teams in Kampala have sent an additional three MSF water trucks that should arrive in Gysenyi tomorrow.

In Goma there still is one water station intact but is not functioning. Water samples are under investigation to see if the water is suitable for drinking. Water and electricity supplies are running in some parts of the town but the degree of coverage in unclear.

Medical issues

Two hospitals are still functioning.

With the number of people moving to and from the city of Goma, there is a substantial risk of both cholera and measles. Both are constant possibilities with high numbers of displaced populations and is regularly part of MSF emergency interventions. MSF is transporting cholera treatment supplies to the region as well as preparing for a measles vaccination campaign.

Malaria is also endemic to the region.