The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and partners say they are working to restore water supply to about 200,000 people affected by the volcanic eruption in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

It is understood that the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo on 22 May melted mains water pipes and damaged a huge 5,000m³ reservoir.

Tens of thousands of people have been left displaced, with over half a million in the city left without access to clean drinking water as a result of the volcanic eruption which claimed 30 lives.

Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes. It last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and making more than 100,000 homeless.

Without access to safe water and sanitation, children and families are at heightened risk of waterborne diseases, such as cholera.

‘Cholera is particularly dangerous for the very young, the very old and the undernourished, so an outbreak could have disastrous consequences for children’, UNICEF Emergency Specialist, In Hye Sung, said.

‘Children under age five have the highest incidence of cholera and are more likely to die from it, so [it is] critical we ensure that families have access to safe water as soon as possible’.

In the wake of the crisis, scores of people fled Goma for neighbouring towns, either because their homes were destroyed by lava or the authorities advised them to leave over fears of another eruption.

Together with domestic and international partners, UNICEF is working on the water issue, including through supporting the state-owned water company to redirect and protect a by-pass piping system that will send supply from the pumping station next to Lake Kivu, into part of the main water system.

As previous cholera epidemics in Goma started when residents collected dirty contaminated water for drinking, UNICEF has installed 15 emergency station chlorination points close to the lake.

Source: UN News

Photo source: Reuters/Olivia Acland

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