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Aid Workers Need More Sustained Access In Burma

Aid workers need more sustained access to cyclone-hit areas of Myanmar - UN

16 June 2008 - The United Nations humanitarian wing says authorities in Myanmar are making some progress in granting visas to aid workers seeking access after last month's devastating cyclone but much more needs to be done to ensure help reaches those living in the hardest-hit areas.

About 195 visas have now been issued to UN staff alone, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and a joint assessment team of 250 people - involving UN agencies, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and 18 Government ministries - is on the ground in affected areas.

That needs assessment is likely to provide preliminary findings by 25 June, but OCHA said it may still be some time before a clear picture of the situation is completed.

OCHA said that in the meantime international relief workers still need much more sustained access to the Ayeyarwady Delta area, which was hardest-hit by Cyclone Nargis and the subsequent tidal wave that struck on 2-3 May.

Some workers are currently limited to stays of only two or three days at a time, and there is a particularly strong need for skilled technical staff such as sanitation engineers, hygiene promoters and water plant technicians.

More than 134,000 people are dead or missing as a result of Cyclone Nargis and the subsequent tidal wave, and as many as 2.4 million people were affected and now need humanitarian assistance.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), which has dispatched at least 11,000 tons of food assistance in the past six weeks, now has 10 chartered helicopters flying in the Delta. This allows critical supplies to arrive directly at remote villages and previously unreachable areas, such as Bogale and Labutta.

ENDS

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