(Corrects to Agency for International Development in paragraph 3)
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some U.S. aid is getting to the people of Myanmar and Washington plans to provide $5 million more in disaster relief in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis that devastated the country in May, U.S. first lady Laura Bush said Wednesday.
The United States sent about $75 million in relief and the reclusive military junta in Myanmar allowed at least 100 U.S. flights after the storm slammed the Irrawaddy delta, killing more than 130,000 and leaving more than 2 million destitute.
Bush, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York to mark the 60th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights, said the U.S. Agency for International Development would send $5 million more in aid.
“This assistance will support the efforts of nongovernmental organizations like the World Food Program and Save the Children to ensure access to clean water, adequate shelter, basic health services, and other essential needs in the most affected areas,” she said.
She noted that a reporter from the BBC went to the delta recently and made an interesting discovery.
“We saw photographs of the shacks that the people who lived in the delta are building — rebuilding to rebuild their homes, and they were built out of the rice sacks that were stacked with USAID and American flags,” she said.
“So we do know that some of this relief we’re sending into the cyclone area is getting to the people,” Bush said.
Just a few weeks before she and her husband, President George W. Bush, leave the White House, Bush pledged she would keep pushing for democratic reforms in Myanmar, previously known as Burma, after leaving Washington.
“I’m going to pay, really, a lot of attention to these two issues, the international issues that I’ve worked on the most, both Afghanistan and Burma,” she said.
Myanmar’s military junta has refused to accept losing a 1990 election and has cracked down numerous times on pro-democracy demonstrators, killing thousands.
Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Peter Cooney