Widespread reluctance to relocate from Goma

A recent survey by the aid agency International Rescue Committee has shown widespread reluctance among residents of Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, to relocate outside the volcano stricken town, despite the danger of further eruptions in the region.

The committee reported that 43 percent of the people polled were unwilling to relocate to Mugunga, one of the sites proposed by the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie that controls much of eastern part of the country.

Eighty-six percent said they were unwilling to relocate to Sake, approximately 30 km west of Goma. Only 8 percent of the respondents expressed a desire to live in "some other place" outside Goma, the committee reported.

When contemplating relocation, having one’s own home and the potential for work were valued ahead of education opportunities and security. While 18 percent of the respondents said they had work for at least two days per week in 2001, only 4 percent said they were still employed.

Just over 50 percent of households approached had a displaced adult there to be interviewed, the committee said. "Given that many households have displaced [people] who were out collecting food distributions, this provides confirmatory evidence that most households in Goma host some displaced," the committee added.

The average household size among interviewees was eight. Almost 2,000 people, in 24 different locations in the city, were included in the survey.

Meanwhile, the debate among aid agencies continues over the possible relocation of families whose homes were destroyed by the eruption. Possible options include moving them to sites near Goma, such as Mugunga, resettling them in neighbouring towns, such as Sake, or returning them to their places of origin. The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Goma, which controls the area, has banned any reconstruction on the hardening lava.

Since the eruption of Mt Nyiragongo on 17 January, vulcanologists have repeatedly warned that further eruptions in the area may take place and that fissures in the earth’s crust may appear in Goma.