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Cyclone survivors need food aid for six months

Published on 12/06/2008

12 June 2008

GENEVA – Survivors of the cyclone which devastated the south of Myanmar will need food aid for the next six months, a Medecins sans Frontieres aid worker said Wednesday.

Jean-Sebastien Matte, who has just returned from the Irrawaddy Delta, at the same time discounted talk of government officials looting aid supplies, saying that as far as his group was concerned, he had not witnessed problems retrieving aid supplies sent to the country.

"There was a phase with more or less restrictions… but since the beginning, we have been able to distribute about 10 or so cargos by plane. We have been able to retrieve the material without problem.

"The military personnel that discharged our planes in the holding area did not prevent us from retrieving our material to make up the kits," he said.

Matte, who spent three weeks in Myanmar, acknowledged however that distribution was difficult as many villages were inaccessible by road.

One had to navigate rivers, wide and narrow, transfer from big boats to smaller ones before reaching the villages, said the agency’s Deputy Manager of Myanmar Crisis Cell.

"We were discovering new villages every day which still have not received anything or have received very little," he said.

Survivors remain in great need of food, and 12 percent of children are at risk of malnutrition, added Matte.

"The harvest that just ended in March was all affected. The first steps are to dry this inferior quality rice, but which could still be used," he said.

He said that for the next half year, food supplies would be crucial. "Diversified food" – such as beans – is needed, not just rice, he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, relief workers and United Nations officials had also said that aid agencies were facing shortages of food and shelter for survivors of the cyclone.

Only 40 percent of the UN’s emergency appeal for Myanmar has so far been satisfied, they said, adding that supplies had been sapped as a result of the 12 May earthquake in southwest China.

Cyclone Nargis left more than 133,000 people dead or missing, while the UN estimates that about one million of the survivors have still not received any foreign aid.

[AFP / Expatica]