Thursday, July 18th 2024

Cyclone-affected people in Rakhine State face starvation risk if food supplies delayed



The storm-affected people of Rakhine State are in imminent danger of famine if food supplies fail to reach them in a timely manner. Presently, in certain areas where food scarcity prevails, a significant number of individuals are already experiencing inadequate or insufficient daily meals, according to reports from relief workers.

Cyclone Mocha, which struck Rakhine State on May 14th, had devastating consequences for the region. The cyclone resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives among the Rakhine population and caused extensive damage across nearly all townships in Rakhine State. Particularly in the hardest-hit regions like Sittwe, a significant number of individuals are now grappling with critical shortages of essential provisions such as shelter, drinking water, and food.

The storm-affected people of Rakhine State are in imminent danger of famine if food supplies fail to reach them in a timely manner. Presently, in certain areas where food scarcity prevails, a significant number of individuals are already experiencing inadequate or insufficient daily meals, according to reports from relief workers.

Cyclone Mocha, which struck Rakhine State on May 14th, had devastating consequences for the region. The cyclone resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives among the Rakhine population and caused extensive damage across nearly all townships in Rakhine State. Particularly in the hardest-hit regions like Sittwe, a significant number of individuals are now grappling with critical shortages of essential provisions such as shelter, drinking water, and food.

Aree Phyu, in charge of the relief camp at Tayza Rama Vipassana Monastery, warns that since the Cyclone hit for 10 days until May 23th, most storm-affected people have not received any relief aid, while the exorbitant increase in prices of food and consumer goods, including rice, raises concerns of potential starvation deaths.

“Those who can afford it quickly buy tin roofs and renovate their houses, while poor people are left without proper shelter. The option of temporary shelter in school buildings is not viable as none of the schools remained intact after the storm. Almost all houses, schools, and even war refugee camps were severely damaged. Moreover, there is a scarcity of rice, exacerbating the food crisis. We are practically worried that everyone will starve to death”, she told Narinjara.

According to U Nyi Pu, the Chairperson of the Kyauktaw-based Phyu Sin Myittar Charity Association, Cyclone Mocha wreaked havoc on downtown Kyautaw, resulting in 95 percent damage, while its suburbs suffered 90 percent damage, and the affected population is currently facing severe food shortages due to their inability to afford food.

"Nothing remains unscathed, it is an almost complete devastation. Currently, we can only manage to partially repair the houses to provide inadequate shelter for the affected residents. The town is now plagued by the challenge of acquiring rice, as prices have soared beyond affordability. Tragically, we are witnessing an alarming emergence of individuals facing starvation in Kyauktaw”, he said.

In certain territories under the control of the Arakan Army (AA), they have been involved in providing food assistance to individuals affected by the storm, as well as offering assistance in repairing damaged homes. However, it is important to note that their efforts are limited in scope and cannot adequately address the needs of the entire Rakhine State. While certain urban areas have received some support, rural areas continue to face significant challenges.

Local witnesses reported that on the morning of May 18th, the Military Council utilized warships and amphibious landing craft to transport relief supplies, some of which started to arrive in Sittwe for Rakhine State.

While the people can withstand the hardships caused by the storm for a limited period, an extended duration may lead to their collapse; therefore, it is crucial to promptly distribute emergency assistance, a Muslim social relief worker in Sittwe has warned.

"Unfortunately, we have not witnessed any significant relief efforts thus far. While a few NGOs have arrived, their focus has been limited to assessing the extent of the damage. Regrettably, the government's response has been equally lacking. The reality is that people are enduring immense suffering with urgent requirements for medicines, food, and shelters. Both urban areas and refugee camps have experienced severe damage to residential structures. In certain villages, the elders are sharing their meager food supplies. It appears that the food shortage is particularly dire in the villages compared to the camps”, he said.

Narinjara attempted to reach out to U Hla Thein, spokesperson for the Rakhine State Council, and U Than Tun, a member of the State Council, to inquire about the relief efforts intended for the Rakhine people impacted by the recent storm and the ensuing damages. However, despite our efforts, we were unsuccessful in establishing contact with them.

The Narinjara attempted to reach out to U Hla Thein, spokesperson of the Rakhine State Council, as well as U Than Tun, a member of the State Council, to inquire about the initiatives being undertaken to aid the Rakhine people affected by the recent storm and its consequential damage. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful.

In contrast, the AA's Commander in Chief, Major General Twan Mrat Naing, has emphasized the urgency of restoration efforts for the individuals affected by the storm. He has made an appeal to NGOs, INGOs, and local community-based organizations, urging them to extend their support and assistance to the affected people to the greatest extent possible. AA is also actively engaged in these restoration endeavors.

In addition, individuals who have been impacted by the storm are calling upon the international community and rescue organizations to distribute humanitarian aid extensively throughout Rakhine State.

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