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FAO Press Release 02/06

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For more information contact Erwin Northoff, Media Relations Officer, tel: 0039 06 570 53105.

Rome, 31 January 2002 - To assist refugees and farmers in the city of Goma in eastern Congo, hit by a volcanic eruption on 17 January, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today appealed, in the framework of a UN integrated effort, for US$1.25 million immediate aid. International emergency assistance to farmers and their families could help to avoid serious repercussions on food security and agriculture in the Goma area, FAO said.

"When the Nyiragongo volcano erupted, thousands of people lost most of their homes, fields and harvests in Goma and in a number of destroyed villages north of the city," FAO said.

"Around the volcano are some of the most fertile agricultural areas in the region," said FAO Emergency Coordinator Alexis Bonte. "The repercussions of the disaster on agricultural production in the Goma area could be very critical in the coming season."

The volcano erupted just as 80 percent of the farmers had finished their bean and maize harvest; the vegetable harvest still remains to be collected, according to FAO.

The FAO Emergency Coordination unit in Goma warned that agricultural production is expected to decrease and food prices could rise considerably in the wake of the disaster. FAO said that farmers urgently need help to resettle and rebuild their houses so that they can resume farming.

In close cooperation with non-governmental organisations, FAO is preparing to help farmers rebuild their lives by providing construction materials, seeds of fast growing vegetable and agricultural tools to around 6 000 affected farmers in Goma and nearby villages. With this help, amounting to more than US$ one million, some of the worst affected families will be able to supply themselves in the next three weeks with basic food.

Most of the around 300 000 refugees that fled the Goma area after the disaster have since returned, according to the United Nations. However, it is estimated that around 30 000 people, who fled to the area southwest of Goma (Sake, Bukavu), have not yet returned. "Most displaced families want to return, but they have seen their houses destroyed by the lava," FAO said. "It is expected that they will stay with their host families for at least six months."

Weakened by the long lasting Congo crisis, the host families have difficulty supporting the displaced persons, FAO warned. The UN agency is therefore requesting US$250 000 to provide host communities immediately with seeds and tools.

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