A Rohingya woman and her child amid the destruction caused by Cyclone Mocha at a refugee camp. EFE/EPA/STRINGER

At least 800,000 people in need of urgent aid in Myanmar due to Cyclone Mocha

Bangkok, May 19 (EFE).- At least 800,000 people are in need of urgent aid in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha in western Myanmar, according to the United Nations data released Friday.

Humanitarian assistance from international organizations has begun to arrive in the country although access to it has been restricted by the authorities.

As per the UN statement, World Food Program teams have begun distributing food at evacuation shelters in Rakhine State and Magway region, the two worst-hit areas in Myanmar, while still attempting to reach the other affected people.

The military junta ruling the country since the 2021 coup has still not opened access to international aid for many of the affected regions, although some organizations have been able to initiate aid in some areas where they had prior authorization to enter.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Southeast Asia spokesperson Pierre Peron told EFE on Friday they are able to provide “initial support” in some parts of Rakhine state.

“In parts of Rakhine where there were pre-existing authorizations and operations, workers have offered initial support to all affected communities” including thousands of displaced Rohingya Muslims, who live in precarious refugee camps, he said.

Mocha made landfall on Sunday between southern Bangladesh and western Myanmar, leading to problems in mobility and communication due to the destruction of infrastructure during the cyclone.

This has prevented the authorities and nonprofits from getting a proper idea of the number of casualties and the extent of damages caused, with reports of several villages completely destroyed in the catastrophe.

Despite these initial relief efforts, much of the humanitarian aid remains blocked, as the junta has restricted international aid to affected areas.

“Negotiations for humanitarian access continue with all parties involved. In the meantime, our partners continue their field observations and are ready to start coordinated field missions once they are approved,” Peron explained.

According to the UN, the cyclone has left some 3.2 million people extremely vulnerable, and in many areas electricity and telephone connections remain cut, while there prevails an “urgent” need for drinking water and fuel.

Conditions are especially difficult in the camps for displaced people, where tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been languishing for years.

This ethnic minority community is not recognized by the Myanmar authorities as citizens and have been persecuted by the army especially in recent years.

Preliminary data – although unverified – from the opposition National Unity Government of Myanmar, or the rebel government, indicate that the cyclone has claimed the lives of at least 455 people – 431 of them in Rakhine. EFE