Local and international organisations collaborate on START Network anticipatory alert in Goma

An analysis for action report and assessment on the level of preparedness of the communities surrounding the Nyiragongo Volcano in DRC has just been published by CAFOD and Christian Aid and funded by the START Fund. A task force team was put in place prior the analysis. The team included 15 members, drawn from CAFOD and Christian Aid, two local universities, the Goma Volcano Observatory, Civil Protection, Division of Humanitarian Affairs and representatives from local NGOs and the community. The assessment and recommendations demonstrate an excellent example of how local and international organisations, governments and institutions have worked together to identify how to prevent a major disaster before it occurs. More than 50 local NGOs and 10 INGOs participated in cluster meetings where the findings of the report were disseminated.

The assessment activities lasted from 3rd to 11th May 2018. The collection of data in the field was done over 7 days in three locations (“quarters”). These quarters included Majengo, Virunga and Murara. A team of 2 facilitators supported by the study coordinator were involved into the data collection. The two facilitators were from local NGOs Caritas Goma and CBCA.; local actors played a key role in identifying participants together with local authorities, facilitating sessions and writing the report of the analysis. Overall, 600 households were surveyed, and 72 people participated in the Vulnerability Capacity Assessment. One local inhabitant observed:

“… the population must be thoroughly sensitized to minimise stress and the other damage that the population knows can follow unpreparedness, which was the case in 2002.”

In the field reports presented in May, the following questions were due to be answered once the assessment was completed:

  • What is the actual level of preparedness for future volcanic eruptions?
  • What measures are in place to save lives and property?
  • Do the existing institutions and legislative framework specify roles and responsibilities among actors?
  • What is the level of knowledge of the hazard, the perception of the risk, the existing beliefs, and the community behaviour at the different alert phases of the volcano?
  • What is the level of knowledge of the available alert systems and the attitudes to the existing protection measures?

The completed assessment has found that given the current level of preparedness, an eruption would lead to loss of life, livelihoods and homes. Many risks are likely to be experienced including chaotic self-evacuation or poorly coordinated evacuation; a premature return to the city after the volcanic eruption; conflict between displaced and host populations during displacement; an increased number of unaccompanied children and dispersed households; deaths as a result of volcanic hazards, particularly of vulnerable people such as children, older people and those living with disabilities; and huge losses of goods and property, businesses, state services and civil society organizations; corollary disasters such as an outbreak of cholera.

The resulting report, prepared using data compiled using results gathered by local actors who led and coordinated the study, emphasised the need for greater awareness at community level of the dangers, and mitigating actions that would be led by local actors and institutions in the event of a volcanic eruption.

In applying for the Anticipatory Alert Grant for example, the key question remains of when is the correct window of opportunity to take advantage of early action in respect to a volcanic eruption, and how can the local community and stakeholders be supported to respond to an anticipatory alert? This is a question not only for Nyrigongo, with its unique risk factors, but for many volcanically active areas which have similar hazards of high uncertainty with very short early warning periods such as storms and landslides.

In addition, humanitarian actors must better coordinate activities and capacity strengthening amongst themselves; international NGOs, local NGOs, government, local academic and research institutions and the private sector need to do more to coordinate contingency plans and to support fundraising for these activities.

Anticipatory actions are required now before an expected disastrous eruption occurs in Goma town. The Goma population benefit from this START Fund initiative if this analysis triggers a process of strengthening its capacity to prepare for future volcanic eruptions and for its resilience!

To read the full report, please visit the START Fund website, here.

Yves Ngunzi Kahasi works for CAFOD in Goma, DRC.

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