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Posted Mon 14 Jun 2021

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Meeting under “Any Other Business” on the Effects of Mount Nyiragongo’s Eruption

Tomorrow (15 June), Security Council members will discuss the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under “any other business”. The meeting was initiated by France, the penholder on the DRC, upon request by the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). The meeting will focus on the consequences of Mount Nyiragongo’s eruption on 22 May. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock is expected to brief. Council members may consider issuing press elements following the meeting.

The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, which is located north of the city of Goma in Kivu province, has had dire effects on the local population, prompting new needs for humanitarian relief efforts in the DRC. More than 30 people were killed as a result of the volcanic eruption. UNHCR reported 232,433 persons internally displaced, many of whom sought shelter in surrounding areas, such as the cities of Bukavu and Sake. In addition, approximately 8,000 people sought refuge in neighbouring Rwanda. UNHCR further reported that 1,340 children were separated from their parents and that over 4,000 homes were destroyed, leaving about 20,000 persons without shelter.

Although the response by humanitarian actors and efforts by the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) contributed to alleviating the plight of many residents—1,101 children have been reunited with their parents, 160,686 internally displaced persons returned to Goma, and many who had fled to Rwanda crossed back into the DRC—pressing humanitarian needs persist. OCHA reports that the eruption damaged Goma’s water distribution system, homes and critical infrastructure require reconstruction, and many people still require food assistance and housing. Moreover, the shortage of clean drinking water has sparked fears of a possible cholera outbreak.

In terms of funding humanitarian activities, OCHA has mobilised $1.2 million from the Central Emergency Relief Fund to supplement the $3.5 million from the DRC Humanitarian Fund, which were re-allocated to address urgent needs resulting from the eruption. However, a substantial gap in financing the relief efforts remains, as the UN estimates the total financial requirement at $15.6 million.

It seems that the “A3 plus one” called for tomorrow’s meeting since they felt that the Council needs to be apprised in detail of the repercussions of the eruption, which compounded an already dire country-wide humanitarian situation in the DRC. They also apparently view tomorrow’s meeting as a platform to discuss the situation on the ground and the needs of the population affected by the eruption, as well as to mobilise international support for the provision of humanitarian assistance.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may want to hear an update from Lowcock on the situation in Goma and the surrounding areas, especially Bukavu and Sake. They may also want information on the scope of assistance already provided, on the government’s ability to respond to humanitarian needs, and seek to learn more on existing and required resources. Of interest may also be how the government intends to mitigate possible future eruptions. Mount Nyiragongo remains an active volcano, and its previous eruptions in 1977 and 2002 caused considerable loss of life and displaced many people.