On 8 May, the authorities said the death toll from the devastating flooding had surpassed 400 in what is becoming one of the worst climate disasters in the central African country.
“This is an emergency. The floods and mudslides were so sudden. No one had anticipated them,” said Bishop Josue Bulambo Lembe–Lembe of the Church of Christ in Bukavu, eastern Congo. “We have spoken with churches in Kalehe (territory) and they urgently need food, shelter—especially for children—and medicines.”
The church leader said it was urgent to move survivors to safer areas since their homes had been destroyed. He suggested their temporary relocation to the settlements of displaced persons in Bukavu and Goma towns.
So far, according to the cleric, some aid had arrived in the area, with Dr Denis Mukwege, the Nobel Prize Peace laureate, sending doctors and medicines though Panzi Hospital in Bukavu.
Climate scientists say such disasters are becoming more frequent and intense as climate change marches on globally. In parts of Africa, devastating floods and storms have alternated with severe famines and droughts.
In Congo, the floods struck the villages of Bushushu and Nyamukumbi Villages in Kalehe, a territory on the shores of Lake Kivu, heavy rains from May 3- 4. The heavy downpour caused the rivers Nyamukubi and Chishova to burst their banks. With a diminished forest cover on the hilly side, the soil gave way, triggering a land and mudslides which in turn covered houses, farmlands, and people.
On 8 May, the United Evangelical Mission asked for prayers for the people affected by natural disaster. The organization said its Africa department had been alerted of the disaster from Rev. Dr Jonathan Kavusa Kivatsi, president of the Community of Baptist Churches in Central Africa.
“The population is currently in a tragic moment, organizing funerals and still searching for the people who disappeared,” said the organization.
United Evangelical Mission extended prayers to the people whose lives have been ruined by the heavy rains and the floods, while urging more prayers for the victims, prayers for the disaster to stop, and for the victims to be rescued.
“In a very difficult situation, the relief efforts are on the way to help and provide supplies to many whose homes were destroyed. Many houses were destroyed, roads cut off by landslides and flooded fields,” said United Evangelical Mission.
At the same time, Aline Napon, the Democratic Republic of Congo national director of World Vision, global Christian humanitarian organization, said the flooding and landslides occurring in the area were a worrying trend.
“Those least responsible for [changing] climate are the ones suffering the most. Lives are being lost here, and the rest of the world cannot stand by and watch as regular floods, landslides and severe weather-related incidents kill people, including children, and wash away years of invested development effort,” said Napon in a statement.
The organization has dispatched a team to assess the immediate and anticipated impact of the current flooding in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It warns that in addition to water, food, shelter, medicines, and essential needs, the prevention of cholera is also a need that must be taken seriously.
“The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo are suffering …The global community has a responsibility to address this,” said the official.
According to the UN, over 4000 people were missing and more than 100, 000 had been displaced. The latest tragedy adds to the suffering of the people in the region, who have for years borne the brunt of militia violence in the country, the size of Western Europe.