A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Oxfam says concern is growing over the potential impact of cyclone Mahasen on people displaced by ethnic conflict in the Western state of Rakhine in Myanmar.
“Oxfam welcomes the steps being taken by the government to ensure all affected communities including those displaced by ethnic conflict are relocated to safe places but swifter action is needed to ensure people are moved before the storm hits” says Jane Lonsdale, Acting Country Director for Oxfam in Myanmar. “It is essential that humanitarian principles are adhered to in moving all affected populations safely to suitable locations and that no one is left out.”
The cyclone, now expected to hit land on the border of Northern Rakhine and Bangladesh around Thursday 16 May is likely to be felt across the Western Myanmar state through heavy rains, high winds and flash flooding. This threatens to devastate people displaced by the ongoing ethnic conflict and stranded in unsafe camps at risk of flooding.
The secondary effects of the cyclone including heavy rains and flash flooding will impact on communities scattered across a wide area, causing damage to property and livelihoods and potentially threatening lives. “The government must not neglect isolated communities which could become forgotten.” says Lonsdale
Access to the areas of impact is vital
Lonsdale expressed concerns over access to the areas of impact, stressing that it is crucial to ensure that international aid agencies can reach the people that will be affected by the impact of the cyclone.
“Currently, permission to travel to Rakhine needs to be processed in advance by the government. Aid agencies such as Oxfam must be able to reach affected communities quickly” says Lonsdale, “The government should ensure travel authority is issued quickly and granted for longer periods. In the event of serious high level impact the government should strongly consider waiving the travel authority system completely.”
Notes to editors
- 140,000 people have already been displaced by ethnic conflict in the Rakhine, many in unsuitable locations at risk of flooding if heavy rains occur as a result of secondary impact from the cyclone
- The UN has estimated that at least 45,000 people could be directly affected by the cyclone
- Oxfam in Myanmar has been working with local partners and local authorities to provide a humanitarian response on water, sanitation and hygiene to IDPs in three camps in the Kyawphyu area of Rakhine (Kan Nyin Taw, Kyauk Ta Lone and Ramree) since January 2013.
Jasmine Burnley, Policy and Communications Officer, Oxfam in Myanmar
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