Sat, 09 Dec 2023

RAKHINE STATE, Myanmar - Myanmar's military junta continues to deny United Nations agencies access to Cyclone Mocha-affected areas, preventing them from conducting needs assessments and delivering aid to survivors.

Hundreds of people are still missing four days after the storm slammed into the Rakhine State coast on Sunday, destroying houses, communication towers, and bridges. Many people are feared dead.

Rakhine State, which has a population of over three million people, is also home to hundreds of thousands of persecuted Rohingya Muslims, including more than 140,000 who have been confined in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps for more than a decade.

Most live in bamboo huts that provided little protection against the strong winds and storm surges that reportedly caused extensive damage to 90% of the state capital Sittwe.

Despite this known vulnerability, camp administrators and other local sources told the press that neither the junta nor international aid agencies made any significant efforts to evacuate IDPs from camps or prepare them for the severity of the cyclone.

At a press conference on Wednesday, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ramanathan Balakrishnan said that UN agencies and partners were still waiting for permission from military authorities to assess needs in cyclone-affected areas of Rakhine State, including IDP camps.

"Partners are continuing to observe in various locations in Sittwe and other townships and are ready to launch coordinated field missions to assess the full scope of the humanitarian situation as soon as access is granted," he said.

He went on to say that the agencies are still unable to get a complete picture of the damage outside of Sittwe due to a lack of electricity in some areas and "physical and bureaucratic access constraints."

"In order to deliver, we will need access to affected people, relaxation of travel authorization by authorities, and expedited customs clearances for commodities," he said.

According to Pierre Peron, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), shelter, clean water, food, and healthcare services are among the urgent needs for cyclone victims. However, requests for "unrestricted" access to affected communities are still pending.

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