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Cyclone Relief Reaching Burma, But UN Says It's Not Enough

Burma's military government has provided entry visas to 180 UN relief workers and authorized other international staff to provide assistance to victims of last month's cyclone, said the UN.

Cyclone survivors drink clear water near Yangon, Burma

The UN said help has reached over half of the 2.4 million people who need assistance

The UN's top coordinator for emergency humanitarian operations, John Holmes, said on Friday, June 6, that Burma was taking a step "in the right direction" by opening its doors to international relief aid.

But Holmes also said the government should allow more aid workers and more relief goods in the country. He added that there were still 20 pending applications for visas from UN workers and he expected them to be approved.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has sent 200 personnel to Burma, also known as Myanmar, while Japan and Germany have teams working on water treatment there.

Burma has also allowed 20 personnel from the French group Doctors Without Borders to work, while relief workers from other groups have visited the country since Cyclone Nargis struck its southern delta region on May 2. More than 100,000 people died or were still missing.

Holmes said about 15 relief flights have landed in Yangon daily since the government openly accepted international assistance in mid-May. Sea and land routes are also opened to aid convoys, he said.

Situation stable, but needs still high

"It is our view that relatively few people are not reached or visited at all, but it's still quite a long way from being in the position where everybody is receiving everything they need on a long-term basis," Holmes said.

He said the UN has reached more than 1.3 million of the estimated 2.4 million people in need of assistance. But Burma's own efforts and others have provided help to many other victims of the cyclone.

"There has been no evidence at the moment of unusual health risks or unusual health statistics coming to light, and no evidence of starvation at the moment even though many people still need significant aid," Holmes said.

He said the international community has pledged or given a total of $155 million (99 million euros) to the relief campaign.

In addition, Holmes said governments have contributed $83 million and pledged $51 million in response to the UN flash appeal of $201 million launched last month for Burma.

"We would like more contributions and pledges coming to make sure that the aid pipeline remains full in the coming weeks and months," he said.

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