Massive floods and strong winds have affected more than 330,000 people across 12 states and regions in Myanmar. The intense flooding, which has claimed the lives of dozens of people, led the government of Myanmar to declare a state of emergency across affected states Chin and Rakhine, Magway and Sagaing.
Myanmar's president in a broadcast Thursday called for the evacuation of low-lying areas in the flood-hit country amidst appeals for international aid. Priority needs include food, water and sanitation, access to health care, and provision or repair of shelter.
Children in Myanmar face a double catastrophe as floods hit the most vulnerable, says UNICEF. Children living in poverty and those recovering from conflict are amongst those most affected as Myanmar suffered from severe weather for weeks.
“The floods are hitting children and families who are already very vulnerable, including those living in camps in Rakhine State,” UNICEF Deputy Representative in Myanmar Shalini Bahuguna said. “Beyond the immediate impact, the floods will have a longer term impact on the livelihoods of these families.”
“UNICEF has already supported the distribution of water purification tablets and hygiene kits to the affected areas,” Bahuguna said.
In Myanmar 70 per cent of people live close to the $2 a day poverty threshold, and children make up 34 per cent of the population, says the UN. On July 30, Cyclone Komen made landfall in Bangladesh bringing strong winds and additional heavy rains to Myanmar, which resulted in a expansion of monsoon flood waters. On 31 July, Myanmar's president declared four states natural disaster zones. Floods have now inundated more than one million acres of farmland and damage to crops and arable land is now likely to disrupt the planting season, leaving a long-term impact. Over 70 people have died during the ongoing disaster.
As well as immediate relief aid, there is a need for more resources to scale up disaster preparedness, and to improve community resilience, says the UN. Myanmar is prone to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and earthquakes. As well as loss of life the recent flooding has destroyed homes, schools and basic infrastructure.
“The impact of these floods makes the need for funding, particularly for displaced and vulnerable families, even more urgent,” Bahuguna says. “The poorest children and families are going to be the hardest hit, and we need to build their resilience so they can cope with these kinds of crises.”