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What Is a Case Study?
When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.
Deep Dive into a Topic
At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.
As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.
Study a Pattern
One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.
During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.
As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.
Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.
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Nyiragongo Case Study
This case study has been developed to support students studying Edexcel B GCSE Geography.
Tectonic Setting and Location
Mount Nyiragongo is a composite volcano located in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The volcano consists of a huge (2km wide) crater, usually filled with a lava lake, and is only 20km away from the city of Goma. Nyiragongo is currently classed as active (2020).
Nyiragongo is located on a divergent plate boundary where the African plate is being pulled apart into the Nubian plate (east) and Somali plate (west), causing lava to rise between. Eruptions are non-explosive as the lava is basaltic, with a low viscosity, which means it is runny and fast flowing (up to 37 mph).
A map to show the location of Mount Nyiragongo
What are the Primary Impacts of Nyiragongo?
The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in January 2002 had a significant impact on the surrounding area due to huge lava flows.
The primary effects of a volcanic eruption are those caused instantly. These are directly linked to the type of volcano and eruption.
The primary effects of the January 2002 eruption include:
- The lava flow and earthquakes triggered by volcanic activity destroyed 12,500 homes.
- At least 15% of Goma was covered by lava, with one-third of the city being destroyed.
- 80 per cent of the airstrips at Goma International Airport were covered in lava.
- The majority of the 200 deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from the eruption (this continues to be a threat today).
- The lava flows destroyed crops, and many livestock were killed.
- There were drinking water shortages due to the disruption caused to main water supplies.
- 400,000 people were evacuated from their homes to avoid the lava.
What are the Secondary Impacts of Nyiragongo?
The secondary effects of a volcanic eruption are those that occur in the hours, days and weeks after an eruption.
The secondary effects of the 2002 Nyiragongo eruption include:
- Acid rain fell due to the reaction of volcanic gases in the atmosphere, damaging farmland.
- Refugee camps were overcrowded as many of the 120,000 homeless could not afford to rebuild their homes.
- Overcrowding and poor hygiene conditions led to the spread of cholera in refugee camps.
- The economic impact of the eruption was felt across the region as businesses and shops were destroyed.
- After people evacuated Goma, looting broke out.
How are Nyiragongo’s Hazards Managed?
Management of volcanic hazards includes short-term relief (shelter and supplies) and long-term planning (trained and funded emergency services), preparation (warning and evacuation ; building design) and prediction .
Approximately 400,000 people were evacuated from the vicinity of the volcano. The pace of evacuation was slow until plumes of smoke from the volcano were visible. The evacuation plans were very limited, many residents had not experienced a volcanic eruption. This led to people heading to the volcano to see the eruption, slowing the evacuation process. As a result, around 50,000 inhabitants of Goma became trapped between two lava flows.
The damage to Goma’s airport disrupted the arrival of international aid .
The United Nations sent 260 tonnes of food to the affected area within a week of the eruption. Families received 26kg of rations each.
UK Oxfam sent 33 tonnes of water-cleansing equipment for 50,000 people in refugee camps. The £150,000 package mainly contained water purification kits to provide clean water for drinking and sanitation. This stopped people from drinking contaminated water from Lake Kivu and helped to reduce the spread of cholera in some refugee camps.
The World Health Organisation and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) conducted emergency measles vaccinations to 28,000 children to stop the spread in refugee camps.
Refugee camps, made from scrap metal, were set up to house the displaced populations.
Communication was poor between agencies and refugees. Many people began to travel back to the affected area within a few days to collect belongings and supplies from their homes, even though it was not yet safe. Some walked across hot lava that was not yet solidified and cooled to get home.
Governments around the world gave $35 million in aid to support refugees.
Thirty new signs that detail the early warning signs of a volcanic eruption have been put up in high-risk areas. Evacuation routes have also been mapped.
Communities and schools now have evacuation drills to prepare people for future eruptions.
Leaflets have been distributed to vulnerable people containing information on evacuation routes, shelters and advice on what to do in an emergency.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has expressed a need for more funding to release further educational materials to communities in need.
Officials have been retrained and provided with evacuation plans; each has a designated community to support.
Community officers have been trained to relay information to vulnerable communities if an eruption occurs.
Knowledge from similar volcanoes has encouraged vulcanologists to measure carbon dioxide emissions from the volcano and within Lake Kivu to predict if levels will become lethal (as people can die from carbon dioxide poisoning).
An observatory for the volcano, The Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma, constantly monitors the volcano.
The large lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo is visible from above, so its levels can be carefully monitored to see if an eruption is impending.
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- Age: 14-16 MYP Individuals and Societies
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Watch this video clip about Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo - it also makes a mini tourism case study.
Case study task
Use the resources and links that can be found on this page to produce a detailed case study of the 2002 eruption of Mount Nyiragongo. You should use the 'Five W's" subheadings to give your case study structure.
BBC News - Congo volcano 'kills dozens' [18 January 2002]
When did it happen?
Wikipedia - Mount Nyiragongo
Where did it happen?
Why did it happen.
NOVA - Volcano under the City
Who was affected by it happening?
BBC News - Goma: Eruption aftermath [23 January 2002]
BBC News - Goma: One month on [26 February 2002]
You should be able to use the knowledge and understanding you have gained about 2002 eruption of Mount Nyiragongo to answer the following exam-style question:
In many parts of the world, the natural environment presents hazards to people. Choose an example of one of the following: a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a drought. For a named area, describe the causes of the example which you have chosen and its impacts on the people living there. [7 Marks]
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Resources you can trust
Mount Nyiragongo volcanic eruption - 2002
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Resources you might like
Briefing note: democratic republic of congo - impact of mount nyiragongo eruption (26 may 2021), attachments.
Crisis Impact Overview
Mount Nyiragongo erupted on 22 May 2021 at 19:00 local time near the city of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Two lava streams emerged from the volcano at a height of 1,800 metres. One stream flowed east in the direction of Rwanda, while the other headed towards Goma, stopping 300 metres from Goma International Airport (UNICEF 23/05/2021). As at 26 May, 1,400 metres of roads were potentially affected by the lava (UNOSAT 26/05/2021).
At least 25,000 people were displaced in Sake, 25 km northwest of Goma, and 7,000 travelled towards neighbouring Rwanda to seek refuge (UNICEF 23/05/2021). 31 people died, and 24 were injured by the lava flows; 40 adults and 170 children are missing. Three villages and one neighbourhood in the city of Goma were destroyed by the lava, including more than 3,500 houses and five schools (OCHA 25/05/2021). Over 20,000 people (4,500 households) lost their home and are currently living in host communities, public spaces, and schools (IRC 23/05/2021).
The most affected neighbourhoods are Buhene and Kibati, located north of Goma International Airport, where eight health centres and eight schools have been damaged (OCHA 25/05/2021). Power lines and water supplies have also been damaged, preventing 500,000 people from accessing water and electricity (USAID 25/05/2021). The Government and humanitarian partners have set up a hotline to provide assistance to the population (OCHA 25/05/2021).
Strong aftershocks were recorded in Rwanda on 26 May, including a magnitude 5.1 earthquake under Lake Kivu (Al Jazeera 25/05/2021). A magnitude 4.7 earthquake in northeast Goma on the same day and fear of a second eruption triggered the evacuation of the city ordered by local authorities (Al Jazeera 27/05/2021).
Democratic republic of the congo humanitarian fund 2021 mid-year monitoring report.
DR Congo + 9 more
République démocratique du Congo : Aperçu des besoins humanitaires 2022 (décembre 2021)
DR Congo + 1 more
Revised Emergency Appeal: Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda | Mount Nyiragongo Eruption: Complex Multi-hazard Emergency, Appeal №: MDRNYIRA21
Rd congo : éruption volcanique à goma - rapport de situation no. 16, 14 juin 2021.