Baptist World Aid sends emergency grants for Congo disaster relief

WASHINGTON (BP)--Baptist World Aid (BWAid), the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, has made initial emergency grants of $30,000 to help those who have fled the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo.

In an urgent request to BWAid, Faustin Bashaka, the general secretary of the Baptist Association in Rwanda (AEBR) said that many fleeing the eruption had crossed the border at Gisenyi, Rwanda, and were seeking shelter in Baptist buildings. He had spoken on the phone with one Congolese Baptist leader, now in Gisenyi, who reported that his Baptist headquarters, secondary and primary schools had been buried by the lava.

The emergency grant will be used to purchase food and cooking utensils to assist those who have sought shelter in Baptist buildings in Rwanda. However, with many thousands of people on the move, more funds will be needed to help those who have been made homeless, officials said.

Claver Buzizi, the projects officer of the Baptist Union in Rwanda (UEBR), described the devastation in Goma and Gisenyi.

"What I saw in Goma was beyond my human understanding," he said. "The people of Goma are safe because they ran away before the town was burnt down to ashes."

An emergency grant to the UEBR will help the 856 families seeking shelter in UEBR properties in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Food, blankets, sanitary supplies, and wood will be provided to each family. Already, UEBR pastors have brought clothing, food and clean water to many of the victims.

Mauka Mathe Bulalo, leader of the Goma-based Union of Baptist Churches in Central Africa (CBCA), is currently in Belgium, but has reported to BWAid that the Virunga Baptist hospital, the CBCA headquarters, the Virunga church, retired pastors houses, staff houses, guest and missionary houses have all been destroyed.

"My family was narrowly rescued." he said, "And my wife fled with only a blanket."

Habimana Athanase, a Goma church leader, asked BWAid to send funds and remember the victims spiritually and physically. BWAid has not been able to make direct contact with leaders of the two groups who were in Goma at the time of the eruption.

BWAid is also in the process of sending a container of medicine and medical supplies to the Goma based CBCA, and is exploring to see if this shipment can be expedited.

"We are possibly on the verge of an enormous catastrophe," said BWAid Director Paul Montacute. "Many people already undernourished and living in abject poverty, have now fled once again. Our Baptist communities in this part of Congo and Rwanda will need our support for many months ahead as they seek to bring relief. "


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