Myanmar’s blocking of aid access ‘unfathomable’: UN

The Myanmar junta’s “unfathomable” move to withhold travel authorizations for relief workers attempting to assist more than a million people in the cyclone-devastated Rakhine state was denounced by the United Nations on Tuesday.

Last month, Cyclone Mocha hit Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh with lashing rain and winds of 195 km/h (120 mph), resulting in at least 148 fatalities in Myanmar.

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In Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya minority refugees dwell in displacement camps as a result of decades-long ethnic violence, the cyclone devastated homes and caused a storm surge.

But despite the towering needs, the UN said last week that junta authorities had suspended “existing travel authorisations… for humanitarian organisations”.

“Four weeks into this disaster response and with the monsoon season well under way, it is unfathomable that humanitarians are being denied access to support people in need,” Ramanathan Balakrishnan, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, said in a statement on Monday.

A rising number of individuals have received relief since the cyclone struck on May 14 thanks to limited travel authorizations given to organizations with a history of operations in Rakhine.

In that period, according to Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN agency for humanitarian affairs OCHA, more than 110,000 people received shelter and other forms of aid, and owing to those approvals, food aid in Rakhine reached about 300,000 people.

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