Vodafone Foundation has agreed to donate US$50,000 (€40,835) to launch a fund with Vodacom that will support communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) affected by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo
The funds will be managed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, based on its long-standing partnership with Vodafone Foundation and the efficient aid work it is doing to protecting the those displaced by the disaster with survival kits, including emergency shelter materials, blankets, sleeping mats and sanitary items, among other materials.
Thousands of Congolese were forced to flee their homes when the volcano, which contains the world’s largest and most active lava lake, erupted on 22 May. The lava flow wiped out entire villages close to the city of Goma making many people homeless. Goma, six miles from the volcano and home to 2 million people, continues to be struck by frequent earthquakes, demolishing houses and making more people homeless. While the lava flow from Mount Nyiragongo stopped on Sunday, the lake in the volcano’s crater appears to have refilled, prompting fears of new fissures opening or another eruption. According to authorities, 32 people have died in incidents linked to the eruption, including seven people killed by lava and five asphyxiated by gases.
Andrew Dunnett, Director, Vodafone Foundation, said: “We recognise the significant disruption that this volcano has had on the people of North Kivu, destroying villages, splitting up families, creating electricity and water shortages and forcing thousands into temporary accommodation. The donation from Vodafone Foundation’s Humanitarian Fund will support those displaced during these difficult days. Our thoughts are with our colleagues and communities affected by this tragedy.”
Vodacom Congo’s campaign to raise funds for those affected by the volcano using M-PESA will be named ‘Pole Sana Goma’ , which means ‘we are sorry’ in Swahili.
Immediately following the disaster, Vodacom Congo also provided free bundles of calls, data and texts to its customers so that they can stay connected with their families in the North Kivu region, of which Goma is the capital The company will also support the DRC’s early warning centre with free connectivity to ensure they are able to effectively monitor future volcanic activity.
Anwar Soussa, Managing Director of Vodacom Congo, stated, “For 19 years, Vodacom Congo’s main goal in the DRC has been the wellbeing of communities, and this time is not different. Thus, we are doing everything within our capacities to help the DRC Government in his efforts to navigate this crisis.”
Jackie Keegan, the head of UNHCR’s Sub-Office in Goma, North Kivu Province said, “We are grateful for the support of Vodafone Foundation, one of the first corporate donors to act in response to this natural disaster. The volcano eruption comes on top of a tragic humanitarian emergency, adding suffering to an already dire situation for people forced to flee.”
In northeast DRC, where the city of Goma is, more than 450,000 people were forcibly displaced already this year, before the volcano eruption, due to violence and conflict. There are now over 2 million displaced people in the province. UNHCR has received just 17% of the US$204.8 million (€167.1 million) needed for their operations in the DRC in 2021. More support from donors and partners is urgently needed.