On Wednesday (May 24), the United Nations called on Myanmar to open up and ensure that life-saving aid can reach parts of the country hit by the deadly Cyclone Mocha.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk has urged the country’s military rulers to let needs assessments proceed as the Southeast Asian nation reels from the impact of the cyclone.
Mocha brought torrential rains and 120-mile-per-hour winds to Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh on May 14, collapsing buildings and turning streets into rivers.
“The harm and loss of life was foreseeable and avoidable and is clearly linked to the systematic denial of human rights,” Turk told a news conference in Geneva.
“It is imperative that the military lift travel blocks, allow needs assessments to take place, and ensure access to and delivery of life-saving aid and services.”
The Myanmar junta has given a death toll of 148 people, mostly from the persecuted minority Rohingya in the western Rakhine state.
“For decades, the Myanmar authorities have deprived the Rohingya of their rights and freedoms and have relentlessly attacked other ethnic groups, eroding their ability to survive,” Turk said.
Rakhine is home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, many of whom live in camps for people displaced by decades of ethnic conflict.
“Displaced communities have subsisted in temporary bamboo structures, some since 2012, and the Myanmar military has repeatedly denied requests by humanitarian agencies to build more sustainable living conditions in areas less prone to flooding,” Turk said.
“I myself saw this on my many trips to Myanmar, especially to the east. They have also systematically prevented the Rohingya from moving freely, even in the days leading up to the cyclone.”
On Tuesday, the UN launched an appeal for $333 million in emergency funds for 1.6 million people it said were affected by Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar.