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Ban Ki-moon To Visit Myanmar To Speed Relief Ops

Ban Ki-moon to visit Myanmar to speed up humanitarian relief operations

18 May 2008 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Myanmar this week to try to accelerate relief efforts in the wake of the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Nargis, which may have killed more than 100,000 people and uprooted the lives of 2.5 million others.

Mr. Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas announced today that Mr. Ban is scheduled to arrive in Myanmar on Wednesday for a three-day visit in which he will tour the areas most affected by the cyclone - especially the Irrawaddy delta in the south of the country - and travel to Yangon, the most populous city.

He will also hold meetings with senior officials in the Government of Myanmar, she said, emphasizing that the UN remained willing to work with authorities to try to improve the speed and distribution of relief aid. It is not yet confirmed which officials he will meet.

"The whole purpose of the trip? is to accelerate the pace of disaster relief. He hopes his presence can really make things go faster," said Ms. Montas.

She added that although the situation in the affected region remained dire, it was "not too late to try to save more people." Millions of people are either homeless or have seen their homes become badly damaged as a result of the cyclone and subsequent tidal surge.

Mr. Ban and other senior UN officials, including Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, have voiced repeated concern that there has been slow progress in sending both aid and humanitarian workers to the areas most affected by the cyclone, which struck on the night of 2 May.

Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, arrived in Myanmar today to conduct his own assessment of the situation, and Ms. Montas said the coordination of help on the ground was now better than he had anticipated. Mr. Holmes is due to brief Mr. Ban in Bangkok, the capital of neighbouring Thailand, before the Secretary-General arrives in Myanmar.

Some UN aid officials are inside Myanmar, working with an emergency team from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and others to try to bring humanitarian relief.

Mr. Ban and ASEAN officials have also agreed on holding a high-level pledging conference shortly to generate funds for further relief operations.

ENDS

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