En route to Myanmar, Ban Ki-moon says he will meet leader in effort to boost aid

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R), John Holmes (L), and Dr. Surin Pitsuwan

21 May 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is en route to cyclone-devastated Myanmar, will meet with the country’s Senior General Than Shwe in an effort to accelerate relief efforts for the estimated 2.4 million people in need of help since the disaster struck on 2 May.

Speaking with reporters at Bangkok airport, Mr. Ban said, “I will meet with senior Government officials in the Myanmar Government, including Senior General Than Shwe.” He added it was essential to “expedite all arrangements for facilitating the free movement of international relief aid and workers.”

“The Government itself acknowledges that there has never been a disaster on this scale in the history of their country,” he said, stressing that it was a “critical moment” for Myanmar. Mr. Ban noted that the relief programme had so far reached only about 25 per cent of the people in need.

Up to 2.4 million people have been severely affected by the disaster, which ravaged large parts of the Irrawaddy delta in the south of the country. Approximately 60 per cent of infrastructure in the delta has been destroyed or damaged, as have three quarters of the area’s schools, the Secretary-General said.

Mr. Ban added that Myanmar’s Government has estimated the losses at more than $10 billion, and said he plans to see the affected areas at first hand, and to meet with people in need.

Announcing that the UN has established a logistics hub for aid in Thailand, Mr. Ban said he hoped it would also be possible to set up forward logistics bases within Myanmar itself, in coordination with the Government and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He commended ASEAN for helping the flow of relief aid and workers into Myanmar.

The Secretary-General repeated an earlier warning that the international community needed to give thought to Myanmar’s longer-term needs, saying it may already be too late for farmers to plant the next harvest, and that the economic impact of the disaster will be severe.

While in the country, Mr. Ban will also participate in a funding conference in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, on Sunday. He said he plans to “reinforce a partnership between Myanmar and the international community, including ASEAN and key neighbouring countries like India and China.”

The Secretary-General stressed that aid and assistance to the people of Myanmar should not be politicized. “Our focus now is on saving lives,” he added.

A major relief effort by UN agencies continues in Myanmar. The World Food Programme (WFP) has been given permission to use nine helicopters to fly in badly needed food supplies. WFP says it has dispatched enough rice to feed 340,000 for two weeks, but reports finding entire communities that have been forced to survive without outside assistance, despite having every building destroyed.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are providing shelter, medical equipment and water purification tablets, and carrying out health surveillance among the affected population.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that, of the 2.4 million victims of the cyclone, an estimated 1.4 million are located in the most severely affected townships of the delta region, and relief efforts will need to continue for some time, given the large numbers who have yet to receive adequate emergency assistance.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Myanmar’s authorities have now granted access for the agency to bring in 10 helicopters. The helicopters will be able to carry as much as three tons of food and other critically needed supplies to victims deep inside the delta. The first helicopter is expected to arrive tomorrow from Malaysia.

WFP says it has dispatched enough rice to feed 340,000 for two weeks, but reports finding entire communities that have been forced to survive without outside assistance, despite having every building destroyed.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are providing shelter, medical equipment and water purification tablets, and carrying out health surveillance among the affected population.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

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

Blog:

More perspectives on issues in the news

Related Stories





In-depth Interviews