EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Tracking natural hazard disasters in non-surveyed regions: the “citizen” observer network of the Kivu in DR Congo

Caroline Michellier1, Théo Mana Ngotuly2, Jean-Claude Maki Mateso2, Joseph Kambale Makundi3, Jean-Marie Bwishe4, Olivier Dewitte1, and François Kervyn1
Caroline Michellier et al.
  • 1Royal Museum for Central Africa, Earth sciences, Tervuren, Belgium (
  • 2Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, Lwiro, DR Congo
  • 3North Kivu Civil Protection, Goma, DR Congo
  • 4South Kivu Civil Protection, Bukavu, DR Congo

In the Tropics, disasters associated with natural hazards (intense convective rainfalls, floods, landslides) occur regularly. However, the general scarcity of reliable and accurate data collected on these events does not allow for a complete picture of their frequency and magnitude, thus hindering effective Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Such situation is observed in the Kivu region, in the eastern part of the DR Congo. Recurrent insecurity, long distances to travel, poor communication networks and the lack of financial resources to reach the affected areas are the main challenges faced by the Congolese Civil Protection in building a database that would allow for a better knowledge of these phenomena, in view of an appropriate disaster response and, in the long term, efficient DRR.

Based on this observation, a group of 20 citizen observers was set up to collect data on six different types of natural hazard disasters (floods, landslides, wind storms, hail storms, lightning, and earthquakes) using smartphone technology connected to an online platform. This new approach, based on citizen science, makes it possible to significantly improve the documenting and understanding of the spatial and temporal occurrence of these disasters that affect the provinces of North and South Kivu. Since the establishment of this network in December 2019, more than 700 events have been recorded.

If the data collected by this network of citizen observers constitute above all an unprecedented amount of information on the disasters occurring in such a tropical environment, they also allow for the compilation of a WebGIS and quarterly reports illustrated with maps and graphs, disseminated by Civil Protection to key DRR stakeholders active in the region, for a more tailored response, its planification, and, to some extent, the anticipation of such events. Scientists from universities and research centers in Bukavu and Goma are associated to that data collection and analysis. Moreover, citizen observers position themselves within their communities as key actors in raising awareness about disaster risks. However, although this type of approach has proven to be effective in the short term, the motivation on the long term of citizen observers, as volunteers, has been identified as a weakness to be addressed.

How to cite: Michellier, C., Mana Ngotuly, T., Maki Mateso, J.-C., Kambale Makundi, J., Bwishe, J.-M., Dewitte, O., and Kervyn, F.: Tracking natural hazard disasters in non-surveyed regions: the “citizen” observer network of the Kivu in DR Congo, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-15940,, 2023.