The people of Myanmar are now facing a humanitarian crisis after being hit by one of the most powerful cyclones, Cyclone Mocha, on 14 May. The cyclone killed hundreds of people, with official government sources citing 145 deaths, while the Government of National Unity estimated the number to be closer to 500. An ethnic rebel group, the Arakan Army, reports that the storm has destroyed more than 2,000 villages and 280,000 homes. ,
The situation has been worsened by the government's suspension of aid access to affected areas, a move condemned by Human Rights Watch. These restrictions have prevented the arrival of aid since 8 June, leading to shortages of essentials such as food and water, especially as the monsoon season approaches.
A large number of those affected are from Myanmar's most vulnerable communities, with about 3.2 million of the 5.4 million people in Cyclone Mocha's path considered at high risk, according to the United Nations. The most severely affected region, Rakhine, is one of the country's poorest states, with 78% of its population living below the poverty line as of 2019, according to World Bank estimates.
The government's decision to suspend aid has not been officially explained, although a Rakhine government spokesman suggested it was due to an alleged unbalanced distribution of aid in favor of the Rohingya Muslim community, a claim the aid group disputes. He hasn't responded. The predominantly Buddhist country has a strained relationship with the Rohingya, who have faced persistent persecution.
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Cyclone Mocha destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes in Rakhine state
Local aid workers suggest that international groups work more closely with local partners, including resistance groups such as the Arakan Army, to avoid sanctions and get aid to those in need. However, despite such strategies, cyclone survivors continue to live with uncertainty and fear about their chances of survival.
This is not the first time that the board has suspended aid following a disaster. A similar situation had arisen in 2008 after Cyclone Nargis, which resulted in the death of over 100,000 people. Some observers suggest that the army is trying to control the flow of aid for financial gain, citing cases after Cyclone Nargis where aid supplies ended up in local markets.
As a result, international NGOs are being urged to reduce their reliance on the junta, which has reportedly hindered international cyclone response efforts. As millions continue to grapple with this crisis in Myanmar, the call for immediate and effective relief has never been more urgent.