UN warns of aid shortages and looming food crisis following devastating cyclone in Myanmar

BERLIN (AP) — The United Nations warned on Friday that too little aid is reaching cyclone-hit areas of Myanmar and that the country could soon face a major food crisis if farmers are unable to plant crops. crops.

Cyclone Mocha hit western Rakhine state and neighboring areas last month, killing hundreds and damaging thousands of homes.

“The devastation is truly immense,” said Titon Mitra, a UN representative in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Strong winds “twisted telecommunications towers, snapped concrete poles in half and even uprooted century-old trees”, he said.

Around 700,000 homes were damaged and the rains, combined with storm surges, wreaked havoc on the agriculture and fishing sector, according to the UN

Among those hardest hit are members of the Rohingya minority who have been living in overcrowded displacement camps since losing their homes in a brutal 2017 counterinsurgency campaign by Myanmar security forces. .

In addition, the UN is concerned about an increase in diseases, such as dysentery, due to waste contaminating waterways.

Although Myanmar’s military government has provided some assistance, there is still much to be done, the global body said.

“The international community must be given wide access to affected communities,” Mitra said. “This is a very urgent requirement. And the provision of relief itself is not enough.

Apart from the immediate needs, there is also a high risk of famine as roads and bridges connecting farmers and fishermen to markets have been washed away and seed stocks have been lost, he said.

“If the planting does not take place immediately and within the next few weeks, we could see a major food crisis emerge in the next few months,” Mitra told reporters at a UN briefing in Geneva. “We anticipate that unless there is an effective response, food availability and affordability will become huge issues.

“This is really a time for the depoliticization and demilitarization of aid, because the needs are absolutely immense,” he said, noting that around 1.6 million people are in need of assistance. “We really see the lives of many people precariously hanging in the balance, and we also risk perpetuating an endless cycle of suffering.”

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