UNICEF and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcome news of more international aid access in Myanmar
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, 23 May 2008 – Following UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's visit to Myanmar this week, UNICEF has welcomed the announcement that the government's leaders will allow more international aid workers into the cyclone-damaged areas of the Irrawaddy Delta.
“I specifically asked the government to liberalise visa policies and to grant unhindered access to foreign aid experts and journalists so that they can operate freely and effectively throughout Myanmar,” Mr. Ban said.
The Secretary-General flew over the Irrawaddy Delta on Thursday seeing first-hand the extent of the damage. On the ground, he met storm victims, many of whom who have lost everything.
‘Everything possible to help’
“I told them that I, as well as the international community and the entire UN family will do everything possible to help,” he said.
Mr. Ban said he was encouraged by the relief effort, but that rapid reinforcements were needed. On Friday, he met government leaders in the capital of Naypyidaw, where he pressed for more aid and a streamlined logistical support system.
More efficient aid distribution
“I also asked the government for permission to establish forward logistics bases in the affected areas so as to more efficiently distribute aid and coordinate assistance to those in need,” Mr. Ban told reporters at a press conference in Yangon.
He said that in response, the government agreed to allow Yangon Airport to be used as a hub for international aid.
UNICEF and its partners started distributing pre-positioned emergency supplies in Myanmar right after the storm hit on 2 May. Soon after that, it began flying planeloads in from abroad and distributing aid with the help of local partners such as the Mynamar Red Cross and the government.
However, concern for the health and well-being of children and their families has been growing, because the aid has been insufficient up until this point to meet the overwhelming needs of an estimated 5.5 million people.
Myanmar Cyclone Crisis 2008