The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

  1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. East Africa
  4. DRC

Volcanic activity "threatens Goma"

[DRC] Goma volcano
Destruction wrought by the volcano near Goma in 2002. Specialists fear it could erupt again soon (file photo) (WHO)

Recent volcanic activity in the Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira peaks in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has triggered fears that the 600,000 people in Goma could be under threat, according to specialists.

Dieudonne Wafula, head of Goma’s Volcanological Observatory, told IRIN on 7 May that the two volcanoes had shown early warnings of eruption.

"The volcanoes could erupt any time; it could be in two days, or a week or two but not later than two months from now," Wafula said, adding that the most at-risk areas were villages east of Nyamulagira.

Wafula added that Goma, the provincial capital, could also be under threat if Nyiragongo erupts. However, he said, the lava levels in Nyiragongo were low and would not be expected to cause extensive damage to the city, whose population has been swelling in the past few years, fuelled mainly by the mineral trade as well as renewed fighting in rural areas of North Kivu.

Mt Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, spilling lava into Goma and displacing at least 400,000 people. Infrastructure worth millions of dollars was also destroyed.

An estimated two million people who live around Lake Kivu, which straddles the DRC and Rwanda, are also at risk of pollution from the airborne ash, which is usually triggered by a volcanic eruption. Wafula said this was likely to contaminate drinking water, poison livestock and disrupt air traffic.

According to the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), there is a mass of methane gas under the base of Lake Kivu and a volcanic eruption could release a lethal cloud of carbon dioxide from the lake, which could be disastrous for surrounding communities.

Gas power

Rwanda has on several occasions tried to extract the gas to neutralise the “killer lake”.

In March, Rwanda signed a US$325 million agreement with the US-based energy firm Contour Global to extract the gas and generate up to 100 megawatts of power for itself as well as neighbouring countries.

According to Wafula, the Goma Observatory has already informed aid agencies to prepare for possible evacuation and to provide assistance for people likely to be affected.

Zebe Kitabingo, head of the local chapter of the Congolese Red Cross, said in a statement in April that volunteers were on alert to help the population.

However, according to Wafula, no evacuation has so far taken place.

Cheikh Diouf, the UN security adviser in the region, could not give an immediate comment on the possible volcanic eruption.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

Share this article
Join the discussion

Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.

We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant. 

But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced. 

You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission. 

Support The New Humanitarian today.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.