In Myanmar, the UN appealed on Tuesday for $333 million to help 1.6 million of the most vulnerable peoplemany of whom have lost their homes when the cyclone hit the western part of the country over a week ago.

The UN’s top aid official in the country, Ramanathan Balakrishnan, told reporters in Geneva that the disaster had left hundreds of thousands homeless as the monsoon eased.

Among the priorities is providing people with safe shelter and preventing the outbreak and spread of waterborne diseases.

1.6 million in Myanmar in need of help

With coastal winds recorded at up to 250 kilometers per hour making landfall off the Bay of Bengal on May 14, Mocha brought flooding and landslides to an area that is home to hundreds of thousands already displaced by the protracted conflict in Myanmar, many of them the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State.

The UN appeal requests a “urgent supply” of funds to support those in the highest impact zone in Rakhine, Chin, Magway, Sagaing and Kachin states.

Balakrishnan, who is the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar, said via Zoom from Yangon that the 1.6 million people identified for support under the new funding appeal include “people who have lost their homes, people who lack access to health” . services and clean water, people who are food insecure or malnourished, displaced people in camps, stateless people, women, children and people with disabilities”.

Reconstruction before the monsoon

Mr. Balakrishnan warned that “those affected face a long, miserable monsoon season unless we can mobilize resources in time”.

He also gave reporters a glimpse of the dire conditions faced by IDPs, or IDPs, in the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Sittwe.

He said that an IDP from a camp in Sittwe told his colleagues that his shelter was destroyed while his family sought refuge in an evacuation site at the height of the storm.

Those who stayed had a terrible experience when the camp was under water in water from the storm surge,” the UN aid official said, before insisting on the need for medical care, clean water and food, as well as support to rebuild shelters.

A shelter is left in pieces by Cyclone Mocha in Nget Chaung 2 IDP camp in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

© UNOCHA/Pierre Lorioux

A shelter is left in pieces by Cyclone Mocha in Nget Chaung 2 IDP camp in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Humanitarian efforts are underway

Hundreds of humanitarian personnel are on the ground in Rakhine state, already providing food aid, shelter, water and hygiene items “wherever they have access”, while mobile health teams have been supporting people on the ground, Balakrishnan said, with plans for further urgent aid distribution.

Thousands of people have already received support and we hope to get the green light soon for a two-week distribution plan… across all affected communities in Rakhine and Chin,” he announced.

Rohingya refugees suffer in Bangladesh

In neighboring Bangladesh, the United Nations is appealing for $42 million to support the cyclone response, including $36 million for Rohingya refugees living in camps in the affected areas.

Gwyn Lewis, the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh speaking from Dhaka, told reporters that more than 400,000 people in the country were affected and 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps saw their homes – mostly temporary bamboo structures – destroyed or damaged.

More cuts in food rations

Lewis stressed that the cyclone came after cuts in food rations for refugees and a devastating fire in March, where 16,000 had lost their homes.

To add to the difficulties of the refugees, she said that the lack of funding forces the UN to cut their food rations for the second time as of June 1. “This means that the Rohingya refugees will only receive 67 percent of the required food rations, so one million people will only receive about two-thirds of the required food,” she added.

Life-saving early warnings

Thankfully, the Bangladeshi government acted quickly on the cyclone warnings, Lewis said, evacuating about 700,000 people from Mocha’s path, helping save countless lives.

She expressed hope that new funding will make it possible to rebuild the homes of the Rohingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh with more weather-resistant materials and improve resilience.

On Monday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stressed the the power of early warning services to prevent the worst effects of extreme weather. The agency said previous weather disasters similar to Mocha had caused “death tolls in the tens and even hundreds of thousands” in both Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The WMO also reported that Asia has seen the highest death toll in the last 50 years due to extreme weather, climate and water-related events, with close to a million deaths – more than half in Bangladesh alone.