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Burma: WFP Appeals For Helicopter Funding Aid

Myanmar: UN food agency appeals for funding to keep aid helicopters flying

20 June 2008 - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says it is critically short of funds to keep a fleet of ten helicopters in the air in Myanmar, where they are playing a critical role in delivering relief supplies to the 2.4 million survivors of Cyclone Nargis.

"WFP is leading the way in moving life-saving supplies to distressed communities by boat, truck and air - but it will all grind to a halt by the end of this month unless we get additional funding now," said Chris Kaye, WFP Country Director for Myanmar.

To date, only just over half of the $50 million required for the logistical operation has been secured and WFP says that much of this money has already been spent on barges, boats, rivercraft and basic infrastructure needed to reach cyclone survivors in remote, hard-hit villages across the Ayeyarwady Delta.

The devastation means that the only way of bringing relief to the survivors is by air or by waterborne craft, which are both costly operations.

The helicopters have been able to provide additional relief items, including water tanks and purification tablets, to people living in the worst affected areas, reaching 60 locations.

"The helicopters have reached several villages which had received no help at all during the six weeks since the cyclone struck," Mr. Kaye said.

WFP's overall emergency operation to provide food assistance to 750,000 people in Myanmar is also struggling for funds, after receiving only 45 per cent of the $69.5 million required.

Currently there is only sufficient funding to provide one month's ration of rice to 750,000 people.

To date, a total of 676,000 people in the Delta have received food assistance from WFP. Besides WFP-supplied food, consisting mostly of high-energy biscuits and rice, helicopter flights have delivered relief supplies for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other aid agencies.

Additional flights have deployed teams of humanitarian workers who are carrying out an assessment of the impact of Cyclone Nargis across the Delta - a joint project between the UN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Government of Myanmar.

The helicopters have also carried out two medical evacuations of Delta inhabitants, including airlifting a small child suffering from serious dengue fever from Bogale to Yangon.

"These helicopters show how the UN can bring immediate help to the people of Myanmar," said Erika Joergensen, WFP Deputy Regional Director.

"We appeal to donors to maintain their generosity towards WFP's emergency logistics and telecommunications operations, which our fellow humanitarian agencies depend on to save lives."

In a related development today the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) appealed for $83 million in emergency and long-term agricultural assistance following Cyclone Nargis.

"Myanmar's hardship caused by Cyclone Nargis is unprecedented - never before in the country's recent history has there been a natural disaster of this magnitude," the FAO said in its needs assessment report. "The cyclone cut a huge swath of destruction about 100 miles wide across 200 miles in the populous Ayeyarwady Delta, killing an estimated more than 130,000 people and ten thousands of livestock, while destroying homes, crops, property and entire livelihoods," it added.

ENDS

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