Top UN relief official meets Myanmar officials, urging major aid push

UN aid worker distributes blankets to cyclone survivors

20 May 2008 – The top United Nations relief official met in Myanmar today with key Government officials, including the Prime Minster, and said that a major push was required to assist victims of the cyclone that has devastated large areas of the country.

Speaking to the press, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said he had noted the need for early recovery in agriculture and fisheries, in parallel with the emergency relief effort, in his discussions with Prime Minister Thein Sein.

He stressed that supplies of clean water, food and medicines will be needed for some months and that recovery was a protracted process.

Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said he had discussed all aspects of the response to the disaster, including access and coordination, and how to improve relief operations. Yesterday, he travelled to the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta area, visiting Labutta and Wakema townships and meeting with survivors and speaking with them about their situation.

The UN estimates that 2.4 million people have been affected by Cyclone Nargis and that more than half of them are in need of urgent, priority assistance, with about 500,000 people having so far received some form of international assistance. One concern is that heavy rains are continuing to hamper the relief effort.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of today, some $99.6 million has been committed to relief operations with a further $107.9 million pledged.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is on his way to Myanmar where he intends to help boost the country’s recovery effort. As well as meeting with senior Myanmarese officials, he will attend a pledging conference for international donors, which is co-sponsored by the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), on Sunday.


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