Long-term relationships helped the group aid the Rohingya while the UN and others were shut out.
When Hlaing heard that the “extremely severe” Cyclone Mocha was barreling toward Sittwe township on the western coast of Myanmar, she worried about her family and the 105,000 other displaced Rohingyas living in camps on the low-lying floodplains. Where could they go to shelter from the storm?
From the Thailand office of the Partners Relief and Development, Hlaing (who asked to only be identified by one name for her security) started sending updates about the cyclone’s strength and location to the group’s local contacts so they could alert the rest of the Rohingya community in the area. Team members on the ground urged people to evacuate to schools or temples that could withstand the wind. Hlaing’s family was able to shelter at a school across the street from their home.
Through the organization’s local network, Partners sent money to secure 200 bags of rice and provide for other needs ahead of the storm. “We expected the worst,” said Brad Hazlett, president of Partners. “There didn’t seem to be any way for the people to escape, and we’ve had other experiences where people were restricted from escaping the path of the cyclone.”
As the storm lashed out with 150-mph winds on Rakhine state Sunday, Hlaing continually checked Facebook for updates but saw no news about the camps.
Then on Monday night, she finally heard from Partners’ local contact: “Everything in the camp is destroyed,” he said. He sent pictures of piles of bamboo where homes used to stand, broken bridges, downed trees. He also visited her family to check up on them: They were unhurt, but the roof of their house had blown off.
The full extent of the damage caused by the storm—which …