Cyclone Mocha hit the coasts of the Bay of Bengal

© REUTERS/Jibon Ahmed

On Sunday, Cyclone Mocha hit the coasts of the Bay of Bengal near Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Strong winds of up to 250 km/h and heavy rains caused considerable damage, particularly in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

Despite multiple evacuations and efforts to mitigate the damage, the impact of the storm on vulnerable and displaced communities is a major concern.

“We are particularly worried about situation that the 232,100 displaced people in Rakhine State in Myanmar face. 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 spared somewhat, but we are closely monitoring the precarious situation of nearly one million Rohingya in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar,” said Philippe Hamel, Action Against Hunger’s Regional Director of Operations for Asia.

Following the cyclone, our emergency teams started conducting initial assessments in Bangladesh’s Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar region, where a significant number of shelters and water and sanitation structures have been destroyed or damaged.

In Rakhine State, the cities of Sittwe, Pauktaw, Buthidaung, and Maungdaw appear to have been particularly affected.

“Telecommunications in Myanmar are still a challenge, but 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, a city severely affected by the cyclone. We fear that a significant number of water and sanitation structures have been destroyed,” said Hamel.

In Sittwe, Action Against Hunger’s office and warehouse are damaged and flooded. In the coming days, we will mobilize staff to make necessary repairs, so that they can begin assessments and provide humanitarian support for communities affected by the cyclone.

“The destruction of essential water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, combined with overcrowded evacuation shelters, continued displacement, and gaps in hygiene, greatly increases the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks. Access to shelter, food, and water, sanitation, and hygiene, must be the priority among cyclone-affected populations,” adds Philippe Hamel.

As the cyclone moves inland with heavy rains, the humanitarian needs for over one million displaced people are expected to increase. The situation in northwestern Myanmar is of particular concern, as displaced people in the area live in precarious conditions in camps, displacement sites or the forests, often without adequate shelter.

About Action Against Hunger in Myanmar and Bangladesh

Action Against Hunger has been working in Myanmar since 1994, particularly through nutrition, food security and water, hygiene and sanitation programs implemented in Rakhine State. Action Against Hunger 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 Against Hunger teams are also working in the Sathkira and Barguna regions to build the capacity of local communities to face and respond to natural disasters.