Asia Crisis

UN seeks $300 mln more cyclone aid for Myanmar

UNITED NATIONS, July 10 (Reuters) - The United Nations appealed on Thursday for more than $300 million in additional aid for Myanmar to cope with the effects of a cyclone two months ago that left 138,000 people dead or missing.

Although much aid had already been supplied to some 2.4 million people seriously affected, "there are many who still remain in need of basic assistance and urgent support," U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said.

"The challenges are still great and the relief operation is by no means over," Holmes told U.N. envoys.

Many areas affected by Cyclone Nargis, which struck the Irrawaddy Delta region on May 2-3, had still not received the level of assistance they needed, he said.

In the wake of the cyclone, the United Nations appealed for $201 million. Some $178 million of that has so far been provided, U.N. figures show.

Launching a revised appeal on behalf of 13 U.N. agencies and 23 non-governmental organizations, Holmes said another $280 million was now being requested for the period until next April. Together with the shortfall from the first appeal, that meant a total unmet need of $303.6 million.

The money would be spent on more than 100 projects designed to supply water, sanitation, education, health, food, shelter, agriculture, telecommunications and logistics.

At their summit in Japan this week, Group of Eight leaders called on Myanmar's secretive military government to lift remaining restrictions on the flow of aid and improve access for foreign aid workers, initially shut out of the country.

Holmes, however, reported "significant progress" on access in the past six weeks despite some difficulties. During a visit to Myanmar in late May, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon won a promise from senior general Than Shwe that foreign aid workers would be allowed in.

Speaking at Thursday's revised appeal, Myanmar's U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe said a disaster of the magnitude of Cyclone Nargis "can only be addressed with the help and assistance from the international community."

Holmes said the cyclone had destroyed 42 percent of Myanmar's food stocks and 55 percent of families had stocks for one day or less, meaning food aid was needed in the affected areas for many months to come.

There was already malnutrition among children in the Delta before the cyclone, and without supplementary food, some 60,000 children were at risk of acute malnutrition, he said.

Nearly two thirds of paddy fields in the affected areas had been submerged by the cyclone and over fourth fifths of seed stocks destroyed. As a result, some 550,000 metric tonnes of rice could be lost in the coming season, Holmes said. (Editing by David Wiessler)