Climate Health Medical

Aid agencies brace for Mocha in Bangladesh, Myanmar

Violent winds, flooding, and landslides may result due to a severe cyclone, Mocha, expected to sweep through Bangladesh and Myanmar, as aid agencies prepare for the worst.

HQ Team

May 14, 2023: Violent winds, flooding, and landslides may result due to a severe cyclone, Mocha, expected to sweep through Bangladesh and Myanmar, as aid agencies prepare for the worst.

World Meteorological Organization’s regional specialized meteorological centre in New Delhi forecast that Mocha would further intensify until landfall, between Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar by midday May 14.

Mocha is forecast to make landfall with maximum sustained winds of 180-190 km per hour, the equivalent of category 3 on the Saffir Simpson scale, according to a WMO statement.

Cox’s Bazaar is home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees – the world’s largest camp. The state of Rakhine in neighbouring Myanmar has about six million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Sitrang cyclone

In 2022, the refugees escaped devastation from the Bay of Bengal cyclone Sitrang, which nonetheless killed 35 people, displaced over 20,000, and caused over $35 million in damages in other parts of the country.

A storm surge of about 2.0-2.5 m above the astronomical tides is likely to inundate low-lying areas of north Myanmar and the adjoining Southeast Bangladesh coasts. 

“Heavy rainfall is forecast, with the possible risk of floods, flash floods, and landslides,” according to the statement.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, World Health Organization and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are “making contingency plans and mobilizing community preparedness, based on the forecasts.”

This includes pre-positioning medical supplies, food, and emergency shelters being set up.

There will be major impacts both ahead and after landfall for potentially hundreds of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people, once more underlining the importance of the UN’s Early Warnings for All initiative.

Need of funds

OCHA said an urgent injection of funds is needed to facilitate a full-scale response to the cyclone. To date, the US$ 764 million Humanitarian Response Plan is only 10 percent funded.

According to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) deputy chief of mission, Nihan Erdogan, Bangladesh has a “massive preparedness plan in place.”

“We have trained 100 refugee volunteers in each camp on cyclone preparedness and the flag warning system in 17 IOM-managed camps,” she said. “Emergency shelter materials and hygiene kits are readily available, and personal protective gear has been provided to all volunteers.”

The WHO has 40 ambulances and 33 mobile medical teams on standby at Cox’s Bazaar, agency’s spokesperson Margaret Harris said.

The UNHCR has positioned about 230 tons of dry food and 24.5 tons of fortified biscuits, said Olga Sarrado, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency.

Emergency preparedness

“We fear the impact of the storm with significant rainfall with landslides and flooding of camps near the sea,” she said. “Access to the camps may be impeded, while power supplies and mobile phone towers might be damaged.”

The agency is carrying out emergency preparedness in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and on the island of Bhasan Char, working with local authorities and its humanitarian partners.

Shelter materials such as tarpaulin, rope, and floor mats along with 11 million aqua tabs, 60,000 jerrycans, and 300,000 soaps were readied. 

Some 50 to 100 patients are being relocated to a hospital in Cox’s Bazaar, while other patients have been sent home.

The agency is also working with the Bhasan Char authorities to ensure humanitarian partners and sectors remain alert and that refugees are kept informed.

Health kits, tablets

With more than 1,000 volunteers, six medical teams, and two ambulances on standby, preparations include 53 cyclone shelters and food provisions to last 15 days for the 30,000 Rohingya refugees living on the island.

Humanitarian organizations, especially in Rakhine, had pre-positioned personnel and supplies. Across Rakhine and the northwest, six million people need humanitarian assistance, and 1.2 million people are displaced.

In addition, 500,000 inter-agency emergency health kits and 500,000 water purification tablets had been mobilized to Myanmar’s Ministry of Health Central Medical Storage Department, according to the WHO.

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