21 January 2002

MRDF responds to devastation in Congo as volcano erupts

The Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) is to send an immediate donation to help relief efforts in the region of the Congo devastated by a series of major volcanic eruptions.

Dozens are reported dead as the Nyiragongo Volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to erupt, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee Goma, a city of 500,000. Molten lava as high as six feet high has wiped out villages on the side of the volcano and has spread down into Goma and Lake Kivu, near the Rwandan border. Tremors were felt as far away as Kigali in Rwanda on Saturday night and aftershocks continue to be felt. Fears have also been expressed that the lava flow into Lake Kivu could poison the water.

Between 10,000-20,000 people have sought shelter in the Methodist, Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches in the Gisenyi area in Rwanda. Action by Churches Together (ACT) member, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), however reports that there is not enough food and water to provide for such large numbers of people. "This is going to be a human catastrophe," said a UN official in the region, as part of international peacekeeping efforts along the Rwandan border, saying the refugees needed shelter.

The Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) is to send an immediate donation through ACT which is coordinating a joint response. LWF reports that the most urgent needs of people at the moment are plastic sheeting for shelter and essential non-food items, such as blankets and kitchen utensils. However, water is also a critical item, as supplies have been cut. It is also crucial to establish feeding centres and kitchens as soon as possible because people have no way of preparing or cooking food.

In Gisenyi, Rwanda, staff of Bureau Oecumenique d'Appui au Development (BOAD) are coordinating a crisis committee with other local NGOs, whilst the Government of Rwanda has taken overall charge of coordinating any intervention by the International Community. National and international NGOs, including members of the ACT Network, have been meeting daily to coordinate information and action. This group has in turn liaised closely with the Government of Rwanda and the UN's World Food Program is co-ordinating food distribution with the Rwandan Government.

Kevin Fray of MRDF said: "The people of Goma need our prayers and support. Anyone wishing to make a donation can send it to MRDF. However, we are also desperately in need of funds for the many unreported emergencies that we try to support."

For donations to the Nyiragongo Volcano emergency, please mark all correspondence 'DRC Volcano appeal'. All donations can be sent to MRDF at Methodist Church House, 25 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5JR.

For further information about the relief efforts contact Kevin Fray at MRDF. Tel: 020 7467 5142

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