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Cyclone Mocha, which struck the coasts of Bangladesh and Myanmar on Sunday, has caused significant damages. The situation of the Rakhine State in Myanmar seems particularly worrying. Action contre la Faim teams are assessing the needs and preparing their first emergency response in the coming days.
Cyclone Mocha hit the coasts of the Bay of Bengal on Sunday, May 14, between Kyaukphyu, near Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Strong winds of up to 250 km/h and heavy rains in the last few hours have increased the preexisting humanitarian needs. More than 7 million people were already in need of humanitarian assistance in the affected areas. Despite multiple evacuations and efforts in recent days in Myanmar and Bangladesh to mitigate the damages as much as possible, the impact on the already vulnerable and displaced communities in the region is a major concern.
“The situation of the 232,100 displaced people in Rakhine State in Myanmar is particularly worrying as many of the camps and displacement sites are located in low-lying coastal areas and have been hit hard by the storm surges caused by the cyclone. Bangladesh seems to have been a little more spared but we are closely monitoring the precarious situation of nearly one million Rohingya in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar,” explained Philippe Hamel, Action contre la Faim Regional Director of Operations for Asia.
Following the cyclone, an emergency team has started to conduct initial assessments in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar region, in Bangladesh. The team has observed a significant number of destroyed or damaged shelters and the partial or total destruction of a number of water and sanitation structures on which the team will intervene quickly to answer the needs.
In Rakhine State, the situation is more worrying. The cities of Sittwe, Pauktaw, Buthidaung and Maungdaw seem to have been particularly affected.
“Telecommunications in Myanmar are still difficult. However, initial information from the field indicates that many electricity poles are damaged, and many trees have been uprooted and are blocking access roads to Sittwe, which seems to have been severely affected by the cyclone. We also fears that a significant number of water and sanitation structures have been destroyed here” describes Philippe Hamel.
In Sittwe, Action contre la Faim’s office and warehouse were damaged and flooded. The priority for Action contre la Faim is to contact and mobilize all of its staff to repair the office and warehouse in order to begin assessments and humanitarian operations in support of the communities that have been affected by the cyclone.
“The destruction of essential water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, combined with gaps in hygiene, overcrowded evacuation shelters, continued displacement and potential relocation, greatly increases the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks. Shelter and food access needs must be included, along with increased access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, among the priority needs of cyclone-affected populations,” adds Philippe Hamel.
The needs of more than one million displaced people and the situation of communities in northwestern Myanmar are also expected to worsen in the coming days as the cyclone is likely to move inland with heavy rains. Displaced people in the northwest are already living in precarious conditions in camps, displacement sites or in the forests, often without adequate shelter.
Action contre la Faim has been working in Myanmar since 1994, particularly through nutrition, food security and water, hygiene and sanitation programs implemented in Rakhine State. Action contre la Faim operations in Bangladesh began in 2006 and have focused in recent years on meeting the needs of Rohingya refugees and host communities in the Cox’s Bazar region. In Bangladesh, Action contre la Faim teams are also working in the Sathkira and Barguna regions to build the capacity of local communities to face and respond to natural disasters.
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