In the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha, millions of children in Bangladesh and Myanmar are facing a grave risk as the trail of destruction wreaked havoc in the region.
The cyclone, which struck on Sunday (14 May), has severely disrupted the lives of vulnerable children and families, exacerbating the dire conditions they were already facing, reads a Unicef press release.
While the worst of the storm has passed, the danger of landslides remains high, and the looming threat of waterborne diseases looms larger with each passing day.
A few days ago Cyclone Mocha made landfall on the coastlines of Bangladesh and Myanmar, unleashing heavy rainfall, storm surges, and powerful winds reaching speeds of up to 175kmph.
Expressing concern over the situation, Catherine Russell, the executive director of Unicef, said, "Some of the world's most vulnerable children and families are, yet again, facing a crisis they didn't create. The areas most severely hit by the storm are home to communities already grappling with conflict, poverty, instability, and environmental shocks.
"As we promptly assess and respond to the immediate needs of children following this cyclone, we acknowledge that finding long-term solutions is crucial for saving and improving their lives."
As the storm weakened late Sunday, it left behind a trail of destruction, with homes, health facilities, schools, and critical infrastructure in ruins.
The impact has been particularly devastating for the hundreds of thousands of people affected, many of whom are refugees or internally displaced individuals residing in poorly constructed shelters in camps and hard-to-reach areas.
These communities heavily rely on humanitarian aid for essential necessities such as food, water, healthcare, education, and protection.
The situation in Myanmar is especially alarming. Rakhine State, along with regions such as Chin State and Sagaing and Magway Regions in the northwest, were in the path of the cyclone, placing over 16 million people, including 5.6 million children and 1.2 million internally displaced Rohingya and ethnic communities, at risk. These low-lying areas are highly susceptible to flooding and landslides.
Assessing the extent of the damage in Myanmar has proven challenging due to interrupted transport and telecommunication services, as well as blocked roads caused by fallen trees and debris. Early reports indicate that children were among the victims of the storm.
In Bangladesh, home to the world's largest refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, one million Rohingya refugees bore the brunt of the cyclone, half of whom are children. These densely populated camps have become breeding grounds for disease, malnutrition, neglect, exploitation, and violence. They are also highly vulnerable to mudslides, and the children reside in fragile temporary shelters, added the Unicef press release.
Cyclone Mocha now holds the record, along with 2019's Tropical Cyclone Fani, as the strongest storm ever recorded in the North Indian Ocean. Scientists warn that while efforts in disaster management have reduced the number of cyclone-related deaths in recent years, climate change poses a significant threat to this progress.
They emphasise that the escalating frequency and intensity of storms will pose an even greater risk to Bangladesh in the coming decades.
Although Cox's Bazar was spared the direct impact of the eye of the storm, thousands of people have been affected, and numerous temporary shelters, facilities, and infrastructure provided for the refugees have been flooded and severely damaged by the heavy winds and rainfall.
Immediate and unfettered humanitarian access to the affected areas in both countries is of utmost importance. Unicef is on the ground, conducting assessments, and providing emergency relief. In collaboration with local partners, UInicef is prepositioning and deploying supplies in Bangladesh and Myanmar to bolster response efforts, focusing on water and sanitation, child protection, healthcare, nutrition and education, the release furthered.
The timely response and support from the international community are crucial to ensuring the well-being and safety of the affected children and families in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
By working together and mobilising resources, we can mitigate the immediate risks and strive towards long-term solutions that will protect these vulnerable populations from the devastating impact of natural disasters.
The road to recovery will be challenging, but with concerted efforts, we can provide a ray of hope for the millions of children affected by Cyclone Mocha in Bangladesh and Myanmar, said Unicef.