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Aid Rushed To Goma To Counter Disease Threat

Democratic Republic Of Congo:
World Vision New Zealand Commits Initial $50,000 For Relief Effort

World Vision will re-double its relief efforts in Goma after refugees displaced by a volcanic eruption returned home rather than face life in refugee camps.

World Vision information officer Alison Preston speaking from Goma today said the majority of displaced people had returned to the area.

"These people have a phobia about camps since they saw the nasty experience of the Rwandan refugees, where so many died of disease," Ms Preston said.

An estimated 24,000 people died in a 1994 cholera epidemic in Goma as hundreds of thousands of refugees fled violence in neighbouring Rwanda.

To counter a repeat of the disease threat World Vision has rushed three water tanks to the region each capable of holding in excess of 10,000 litres. In addition the agency will distribute thousands of blankets, jerry cans, tents and cooking utensils sourced from Rwanda and Kenya.

The agency is also negotiating with the World Food Programme to begin possible food distributions.

Ms Preston described the scene in Goma as chaotic.

"It's crowded, it's wet - it's been raining. People have no accommodation, no food and no water," she said.

Ms Preston said she saw people taking water directly from Lake Kivu for drinking, and there was a strong possibility that it was contaminated.

"Although the surface of the lava is dry, it is still molten underneath and pouring into the lake, where it is hissing and stirring up clouds of gas. I still have a headache from the sulphurous fumes," she said.

"We've all been walking around on the dried surface of the lava, and it's quite scary when you think it's still boiling underneath. It's hard to walk on it, but I've seen thousands of people crossing carrying their few possessions, their children and their goats."

World Vision's New Zealand office today committed an initial $NZ50,000 to help fund the agency's relief efforts and is appealing to the public for donations.

World Vision New Zealand communications officer James Addis said a quick response to the emergency was essential.

"So far the number of fatalities has been limited but everybody is conscious how quickly things can deteriorate if aid is delayed and disease takes hold," he said.

Individuals wishing to support World Vision's Goma appeal can phone:

0800 80 2000

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