Red Cross steps up international response as 178,000 people are affected by floods in Myanmar

Published: 4 August 2015 12:18 CET

By Patrick Fuller, IFRC

In recent weeks heavy rains across many areas of Myanmar have caused extensive flooding and landslides. According to the Government, 48 people have died so far and there has been widespread damage to communications, transportation infrastructure and farmland. The situation worsened on 30 July 30 when Cyclone Komen made landfall in neighbouring Bangladesh after sitting off the coast of Western Myanmar for several days. The cyclone brought high winds and further heavy rain to several states and regions in Western and Northern Myanmar.

The Myanmar Red Cross Society estimates that 178,000 people have been affected in areas where it has been able to gather data. Many areas remain inaccessible and according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the flooding has inundated nearly 400,000 acres of farmland, destroyed 30,000 acres and damaged an additional 73,000 acres.

Twelve regions and states have been affected by the flooding and on 31 July 31, Myanmar’s President declared Chin and Rakhine states and the regions of Sagaing and Magwa, to be natural disaster zones. Current weather forecasts are predicting that rain will continue for several more days affecting the Sagaing, Mandalay, Magway, Bago, Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions and in Shan, Chin, Rakhine, Kayin and Mon states.

“In coming days we expect the number of affected people to rise as Red Cross assessment teams manage to reach more remote areas of Rakhine and other places where communities have been cut off by the flooding. Getting access to these areas is our major challenge at the moment,” said Udaya Regmi, head of delegation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Myanmar.

Volunteers and emergency funds

Red Cross volunteers in branches throughout affected regions have been active since the flooding began. Over 340 volunteers have been mobilised to support relief efforts. They are working closely with local authorities, the UN and Movement partners, carrying out evacuation and rescue operations, conducting needs assessments and providing food, water, shelter materials, blankets, clothes, medical care and other basic necessities.

Thousands of people have been evacuated to higher ground and to temporary sites, including monasteries and schools. The population sheltering in temporary evacuation sites fluctuates as some choose to return home to recover belongings and look after their livestock and fields. Contamination of water sources is also an issue in many places, especially due to the reliance on community water ponds in many villages.

The IFRC has released funds from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to enable the Myanmar Red Cross Society to maintain its relief stocks. With assistance from the IFRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the society plans to provide non-food relief items to 35,000 people in the most severely affected communities across nine townships in Rakhine, Magway, Sagaing and Chin State; mainly families in temporary shelter.

In Chin State, concerns of possible food shortages – especially in the city of Hakha – means that short-term food assistance is vital, especially in hard to reach areas. In Rakhine, the Red Cross and its partners have agreed to deploy mobile health clinics and will work towards providing safe water sources. Based on the increasing humanitarian needs, an international emergency appeal will be launched to further support the Red Cross response to the floods.