Friday, May 9, 2008

UN seeks $187 million to aid cyclone survivors in Myanmar

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 21 minutes ago

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations is seeking $187 million to help an estimated 1.5 million cyclone survivors in Myanmar over the next three months, U.N. officials said Friday.

The world body appealed to donor nations to pledge money for food, water purification tablets, emergency health kits, mosquito nets, cooking sets, plastic sheeting and water jugs.The money would go to 10 U.N. agencies and nine non-governmental organizations.

"If we do not act now, and if we do not act fast, more lives will be lost," said John Holmes, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.The United States, Britain, France and other nations called on Myanmar to ensure unfettered access for aid workers, release aid shipments, speedily grant visas and waive importation fees."Myanmar intends to cooperate with the international community to address this great challenge," said Kyaw Tint Swe, Myanmar's U.N. ambassador.

But, he added: "It has to be orderly and systematic."

In Atlanta, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said his staff was negotiating with Myanmar to break the gridlock, although he said leaders of the junta had "regrettably" not yet made direct contact with him."It's moving toward the right direction," he said.

The U.N. World Food Program announced it had suspended aid shipments Friday after two planeloads of supplies were seized by government officials. WFP later reversed the decision and said the flights would resume Saturday.

That agency seeks $56 million to feed 630,000 hungry people living in badly damaged areas or temporary shelters.Saturday's cyclone killed tens of thousands of people and left many more missing. Diplomats and aid groups have warned the number of dead could eventually exceed 100,000 because of illnesses and that the country is on the brink of a medical catastrophe.

No comments: