The village of Kibirga, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, no longer exists. The village, 35 kilometers from Goma, was one of five communities buried on 16 May 2010 when Mount Kirisimbi, a volcano that had lain dormant since 1952, erupted. At least 47 people lost their lives and hundreds more lost their houses, belongings and livelihoods.
The Salvation Army reacted quickly and implemented a project providing clothing for the affected population. Panga, an elderly man who lost all 16 members of his family, remembers with gratitude the help provided by Lieutenant Jean Marc, the local Salvation Army officer (church minister). The lieutenant was among the first people to arrive with assistance – he even helped to find land to bury the dead.
More than three months on from the eruption, the people are still in a desperate situation. They live with host families or in one of three camps. The area where they lived is destroyed and they won’t be able to return there. Aid doesn’t seem to have reached these people and, in an area that is already struggling with the results of decades of civil war, this seems to be just another tragedy.
However, there is some good news. The local government has allocated new land for 240 families and The Salvation Army is looking to see how it can support the new community. The Salvation Army has a good reputation and experience with other projects in eastern Congo and Lieutenant Marc and Project Officer Captain Tsilulu have many ideas about how they can help.
The question is how much money can be found to assist these desperate people?