In contrast to the devastating drought in Afghanistan, Myanmar/Burma has been experiencing intensely heavy monsoons recently. The rainy season comes every year around this time, and every once in a while it is particularly bad — in 2015, 100 people were killed, and 330,000 people were driven from their homes.
This year, so far approximately 100,000 people have been affected, and at least 10 have died — a man and two children were killed when their boat tipped, and they drowned, trying to seek refuge on dry land. Local news is reporting approximately 1,000 villages across the country have been flooded, and 54,000 have been displaced. Keep in mind that this number is very difficult to assess accurately — some estimates say up to 100,000 people have fled their homes, others are much lower. As time goes on, the numbers of displaced people will become clearer. Needless to say, the number is high.
The government is setting up camps around the nation in an attempt to give shelter to those who have been internally displaced. They are also attempting to provide sufficient boats, life jacks and other flotation devices for emergencies. They say that the water level is under control in two states so far, but many areas are still suffering under the relentless downpour.
Two majors rivers have risen to their highest point in 50 years, according to Myanmar’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology. The department’s director-general, U Kyaw Moe Oo, said that, “Water levels have risen because it rained heavily in Mon, Karen and Rakhine states for several days continuously.”
The heavy rains and subsequent flooding affect the lives of many — not only can it threaten their physical lives, but it also threatens their livelihood. Agriculture is a significant portion of their economy: 24.8% of Burma’s GDP is composed of agricultural services, according to the CIA World Factbook. Rice paddies stretch far and wide across the nation, and while they are built for the wet environment of the jungle, excessive flooding of this nature can be devastating. It also poses a major threat to livestock and other farming ventures.
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Knut Ostby, said that, “My thoughts are with the families whose lives have been impacted by the [floods]. I’m alarmed by the destruction of property, infrastructure [and] agricultural land. We’re offering to provide support to the ongoing assistance delivered by [the Burmese government and] partners.”
Featured image: Members of Myanmar Rescue Team carry residents in a boat to travel along a flooded road in Bago, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, July 29, 2018. | AP Photo/Myo Kyaw Soe