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Myanmar needs $700 mln in cyclone aid: UN

world Updated: Feb 10, 2009 08:02 IST
Thin Le Win
Thin Le Win
Myanmar needs $700 mln in cyclone aid: UN

Military-ruled Myanmar needs around $700 million in aid over the next three years to recover from last year's devastating cyclone, an aid coordinating group said on Monday.

The appeal, focused on eight key areas including nutrition, health and livelihoods, comes at a time when many countries are being squeezed by the global economic crisis.

Foreign donors have also been reluctant to provide aid in the past to the former Burma, under military rule since 1962 and isolated internationally over its dismal human rights record.

Last year's flash appeal for more than $470 million in aid after Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy delta on May 2 has raised $310 million so far.

But officials from the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were confident donors would help with the three-year recovery plan.

"It is a very, very modest support request compared to the magnitude of the disaster," Bishow Parajuli, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, told reporters in Bangkok.

He said it was a small request compared with the $5.1 billion provided for recovery efforts in Indonesia's Aceh, the hardest hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami.

"I believe there will be continued support by the international community to the people of Myanmar," he said.

Cyclone Nargis left 140,000 people dead or missing and 2.4 million severely affected.

Lack of new credit and access to markets have saddled many delta farmers with heavy debts, said Chris Kaye, country director for the U.N.'s World Food Programme.

A survey of more than 2,000 households in October 2008 found that one in three were still in temporary shelters. Access to clean water remains a challenge.

"We're in the middle of the dry season in Myanmar and around half of the affected areas in March will experience salty streams at high tide," said Andrew Kirkwood, country director for the charity Save the Children.

"Basically it means getting fresh drinking water this time of the year is extremely difficult," he said.

Aid agencies are using reverse osmosis machines to purify the water but Kirkwood said it is labour-intensive and costly.

Myanmar's junta was criticised for resisting international assistance in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, but ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said a certain level of trust had been achieved with the regime.