United Nations (UN) officials voiced urgent concern on Friday about a prospective humanitarian disaster in cyclone-ravaged regions of Myanmar. Insufficient aid deliveries and a potential food crisis are top concerns following last month’s destructive Cyclone Mocha. Farmers unable to plant crops due to the aftermath could propel a major food shortage, warned the Associated Press (AP).
Cyclone Mocha took a harsh toll on the western state of Rakhine and adjacent areas, claiming hundreds of lives and wrecking thousands of homes. “The devastation is truly immense,” stated Titon Mitra, a UN representative in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. The cyclone’s mighty winds “twisted telecom towers, snapped concrete poles in half and uprooted even 100-year-old trees,” he continued.
In addition to the loss of approximately 700,000 homes, rains and storm surges have left the region’s agricultural and fisheries sectors in ruins, as per UN reports. Nearly two weeks after Cyclone Mocha wreaked havoc, 1.6 million residents of Rakhine, Chin, Magway, Sagaing, and Kachin states remain in dire need of assistance. Devastating wind speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour demolished homes, farmland, and livestock.
Titon Mitra expressed his grave concerns about food reserves, which he said were being “completely wiped out”. Adding to the urgency, he stressed that water sources needed immediate decontamination and warned of the approaching monsoon season. “The international community has to be given widespread access to the affected communities. And that’s a very urgent requirement,” Mitra emphasized.
The UN launched a $333 million Flash Appeal for Myanmar last month. While some assistance is trickling through, Mr. Mitra underscored the need for better access and more substantial support for the region’s rural areas. He lauded some regional donors who have already provided support but stressed the importance of increased international assistance to meet the enormous needs.
As Myanmar continues to grapple with civil unrest and violence following a military coup two years ago, Mitra urged for the “depoliticization and demilitarization” of aid distribution. He emphasized the need for clearance from military authorities for an already proposed distribution plan, which would enable international organizations and their civil society partners to move more freely and efficiently. The UN representative also highlighted the imminent threat to rural livelihoods, as 1,200 square kilometers of land were flooded due to Cyclone Mocha, causing widespread damage to agriculture and fisheries.
Adding to the concern, Mitra warned that relief provision alone was “not enough”. If residents are unable to plant food crops within the next few weeks, a “major food crisis” could soon emerge. Already burdened by poverty and displacement, many residents of Rakhine were living precariously even before Cyclone Mocha. Swift action by the international community is crucial to prevent a cycle of suffering, Mitra warned, urging for a robust and efficient response to the crisis.