Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Sunday, with winds of up to 250 kmph ravaging the low-lying Bay of Bengal. One of the most powerful cyclones ever to hit the region, Mocha brought flooding and damage millions of people On its way.
The state capital, Sittwe, has been worst hit, with almost no houses left intact. Currently verifying the number of dead and missing estimated In hundreds, communication blackouts have caused disruptions. Humanitarian workers are reporting widespread cyclone damage in central Rakhine, where some 140,000 of Myanmar’s 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have been confined in camps for more than 10 years, with some camps completely destroyed.
What we do know about these camps tells us that the loss of life and property was both predictable and avoidable.
For decades, Myanmar officials Rohingyas have been denied their rights and freedoms and destroyed their ability to survive. The camps in Rakhine state were established in 2012, ostensibly for those displaced by sectarian violence, but to serve the government’s repressive regime of apartheid, torture and imprisonment. Families were confined to bamboo longhouses, which were designed to last just two years. Officials rejected requests from aid agencies for enough land and resources to make the camps safe in flood-hit former paddy fields and low-lying areas.
The resulting living conditions are, by design, unsanitary, contributing to the growing number of preventable deaths and annual threats from extreme weather. Together new constraints On aid since the 2021 military coup, less than half of the camp shelters had received no repairs in the previous two years.
Initial reports say Myanmar’s military junta has hampered the disaster response in all affected areas this week, with bureaucratic hurdles hampering aid agencies’ travel authorization and customs clearance.
A Rohingya man said, “No government, no organization has come to our village.” told AFP, “We haven’t eaten for two days. … No one has even come to ask.”
Brad Heazlett of Relief Organization Partners informed of that they were witnessing a “massive loss of life in the camps”.
In the crucial days ahead, as Rohingya and others clear debris and search for missing relatives, foreign governments should demand the junta lift all barriers to the delivery of life-saving aid. In the long term, he must chart a course toward holding Myanmar’s military accountable for the oppressive conditions that have trapped the Rohingya and exposed them in the eye of the storm.