Tens of thousands of people are fleeing the city of Goma and nearby towns in eastern Congo fearing another volcanic eruption by Mount Nyiragongo, which spewed lava near the city last week.
A new eruption could occur at any moment, the military governor of Congo’s North Kivu province, Lt. Gen. Constant Ndima Kongba, announced Thursday.
Crowds left the city carrying just a few belongings with them to seek shelter in Sake, Rutshuru and other places including neighbouring country, Rwanda.
The crisis caused by the volcano is not the only one in DR Congo, a country hit by violence among rebel groups and armed forces that every year takes the lives of hundreds of Congolese and leaves millions displaced.
“The number of people who were displaced by the volcano eruption was around six thousand people (by Wednesday). That’s the number of people displaced every single day over the last 12 months because of armed conflict. And they get no attention,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
He spoke during his visit to Goma to release the organization’s annual report about what it calls the world’s most neglected crisis.
According to the NRC, in 2020 the Democratic Republic of Congo was on the top of the list of the most neglected countries suffering from a displacement crisis.
The NRC said it was due to overwhelming needs and an acute lack of funding, as well as media and diplomatic inattention, worsened by the pandemic.
Thousands of people continued fleeing their villages and moving to live in refugee camps or other towns and cities across Congo due to the internal violence in the country.
Conflict remains a key cause of hunger, especially in the eastern provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika, according to the United Nations.
The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme said that 27.3 million people face “acute” food insecurity and some seven million are suffering “emergency” levels of hunger.
“Twenty seven million people are now in need of food. Eight, maybe nine, ten million will get it, one third of the needs will be met. It’s the same in large parts of Africa, the crises are not getting attention so, we want that to change,” Egeland said.
The NRC said that Africa is home to 8 of 10 of the world’s most neglected countries, with African nations topping the list for the 6th year in a row, and said that there is “institutional racism.”
“The world doesn’t value human lives in Congo, in Cameroon in Burundi, in Mali, in Burkina Faso,” the head of the NRC added.
The report remarked that recent cuts in aid funding, including by the UK, will have lethal consequences for these crises.
According to the NGO 1 in 12 people in need of humanitarian assistance are in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Two million displacements were registered in DR Congo in 2020, making it the country with the largest number of new displacements due to conflict in the world, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
In total, more than five million people are internally displaced in DR Congo, and an additional million people have fled the country.