Risk of cholera outbreak following the eruption of Volcano Nyiragongo


An eruption of the Volcano Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was reported on the evening of May 22. The volcano is situated 10 km from the city of Goma in North Kivu Province. The effusive eruption resulted in power cuts (1), melted main water pipes, and damaged a 5,000 m³ water reservoir (2). There is also a reported risk of further eruption on land and/or under Lake Kivu, putting at risk the entire Goma population and nearby areas across Rwanda (3). Several people have been killed and over 400,000 people have been displaced across several locations in DRC and across the border into Rwanda. Saké, a town located 25 km northwest of Goma, hosts more than 56,000 displaced persons as of May 31 (4).

There is an elevated risk of a cholera outbreak in the area, especially among displaced persons, who are often at high risk due to crowded living conditions and limited access to safe drinking water (5). Indeed, between May 27 and 29, 12 suspected cholera cases have already been reported in the Saké health center (4). While the damaged infrastructure is repaired, continued efforts should be made to prevent a cholera outbreak by providing the displaced populations with emergency water supplies and ensuring access to sanitation facilities.


1. ECHO. Democratic Republic of Congo – Goma – volcanic eruption (DG ECHO, Government of DRC, media) (ECHO Daily Flash of 23 May 2021). 2021. 

2. UNICEF. UNICEF works urgently to restore water to 200,000 people in Goma cut off because of volcano lava damage [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/unicef-works-urgently-restore-water-200000-people-goma-cut-because

3. IFRC. EMERGENCY APPEAL: Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda | Mount Nyiragongo Eruption: Complex Multi-hazard Emergency [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/MDRNYIRA21ea.pdf

4. ECHO. Democratic Republic of Congo – Volcanic eruption, update (DG ECHO, GDACS, Copernicus EMS, Virunga Volcanoes, UN OCHA) (ECHO Daily Flash of 31 May 2021) [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/democratic-republic-congo-volcanic-eruption-update-dg-echo-gdacs-1

5. Dubray C, Guha-Sapir D. Health in Humanitarian Emergencies. Cambridge University Press.; 2018.

Photo : Lava Lake of the Nyiragongo Volcano in Virunga National Park in Eastern DRC © Cai Tjeenk Willink (Caitjeenk)