Far-flung villages waiting for aid after Myanmar floods

A camp for displaced people in Rakhine state in Myanmar, where the U.K. Department for International Development is providing humanitarian support for those affected by the violence and facing additional threats of the rainy season and approaching storms. Sporadic violence and weather concerns hamper the delivery of aid to far-flung and rebel-controlled villages that were affected by two weeks of devastating floods. Photo by: DfID Burma / CC BY-SA

Two weeks after devastating floods in Myanmar, far-flung and rebel-controlled villages in the southeastern part of the country have yet to be reached by the ongoing humanitarian response.

As NGOs scramble to reach remote villages, there are growing concerns over the short- and midterm effects of the flooding on the livelihoods of people who live in poor states mired in sporadic ethnic violence.

The United Nations says about 24,000 people have been displaced in Kayin, Mon, Tanintharyi and Rakhine states, and the Ayeyarwady region. 

Humanitarian focus is now shifting to communities that can only be reached by boat, especially in the conflict-ridden mountainous state of Kayin, where up to 18,000 have had to flee the floods.

“According from reports in the field these are the communities which are left out by the so-called mainstream humanitarian response,” Takeshi Komino, head of emergencies at Church World Service for Asia-Pacific, told Devex. “We’re not too much concerned about the humanitarian assistance given to communities where access is easily secured.”

Those easier-to-reach villages are being handled by the government.

Aid groups say the current number of affected residents may not reflect the actual figure, as authorities are finding it hard to assess the damage in conflict areas. Field reports culled by aid groups from both rebel-controlled and government-held areas show that the number affected residents could reach up to 50,000.

Ethnic, weather concerns

Another factor is also hampering the speedy delivery of humanitarian aid in Myanmar.

“Both Kayin and Mon states are ethnically and religiously diverse with many different groups living alongside each other,” Shibab Uddin Ahamad, ActionAid’s country director in Myanmar, told Devex. “ActionAid does not want to exacerbate existing tensions between different groups by delivering aid unequally or being seen to favor one ethnic group over another.”

Aid partners feel affected residents may have to wait longer for the situation to stabilize as more rain is expected, drains remain clogged and the monsoon season will not end until September.

“The short to medium term recovery for populations who have been displaced will be very challenging,” said Ahamad. “The few assets they might have owned including farmland, livestock and property have been destroyed or damaged. Some of the displaced families have lost everything.”

The flooding could also exacerbate hunger in affected states.

“We’re quite concerned about the affect of the current floods on people’s livelihoods including fishery, business and farming,” said Komino. “And without sufficient support for fishermen and farmers, we are quite concerned about food insecurity in the future.”

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    John Alliage Morales

    As a former Devex staff writer, John Alliage Morales covered the Americas, focusing on the world's top donor hub, Washington, and its aid community. Prior to joining Devex, John worked for a variety of news outlets including GMA, the Philippine TV network, where he conducted interviews, analyzed data, and produced in-depth stories on development and other topics.

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