May 27, 2008 / 7:25 PM / 11 years ago

UN says raised 60 pct of targeted Myanmar aid

(Adds details on total aid, quotes)

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, May 27 (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Tuesday it had raised roughly 60 percent of its initial $200 million target for aid for cyclone-ravaged Myanmar, where aid workers were now experiencing fewer access problems.

"We’ve reached just over a million people with some kind of aid," U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes told reporters. The United Nations estimates that some 2.4 million people in Myanmar are in urgent need of help.

Speaking about Sunday’s pledging conference in Yangon, he said the United Nations had raised some $119 million, around 60 percent of its initial "flash appeal" target for victims of Cyclone Nargis.

From that perspective, Sunday’s pledging conference could be deemed "a success," he said.

Separately, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the total amount of aid offered to Myanmar relief efforts amounted to nearly $233 million as of Monday. This includes the money raised by the United Nations under the U.N. flash apeal.

Holmes said that once the focus of aid work shifted from relief to reconstruction, the amount of money needed would no longer be in the millions of dollars but in the billions.

Holmes acknowledged that some countries remained skeptical of the junta and were waiting to see if Myanmar would follow through on promises to open up access to foreign aid workers before committing larger sums of money.

"There’s been a little bit of concern on behalf of some member states, some potential donors ... about exactly how their aid is going to be used" because of the lack of international staff on the ground, Holmes said.

"The general atmosphere of difficulty about this operation has contributed to a certain amount of reluctance."

The military junta of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, promised U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that it would allow all legitimate foreign aid workers access to victims across the country.

Holmes said he did not know if all roadblocks had been removed, though he said the situation was clearly better.

"It’s a much freer position that it was, say, a week ago," Holmes said.

Myanmar’s national relief effort, which includes bilateral aid from some individual countries, had probably reached another "several hundred thousand more or even a million," Holmes said. However, he was unable to give exact figures.

"There’s still a lot of people out there who have received nothing or certainly not enough," he said.

On the positive side, Holmes said U.N. relief workers had so far seen no signs any major outbreaks of diseases.

"There are diarrheal diseases around which are being monitored very carefully," Holmes said. "We haven’t heard anything that alarms us yet." (Additional reporting by Megan Davies) (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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