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Relief effort slow to start in Myanmar

Some of Myanmar's key food producing areas have been flooded following Cyclone Nargis (©FAO/19708/Giuseppe  Bizzarri)
Some of Myanmar's key food producing areas have been flooded following Cyclone Nargis
©FAO/19708/Giuseppe Bizzarri

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has begun distributing food aid to some of the worst-affected areas of Myanmar after the country was struck by Cyclone Nargis. The WFP currently has more than 800 tonnes of food aid in warehouses in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, but has called for more emergency assistance from the international community as the extent of the devastation becomes clear. The country's secretive ruling military junta has been criticised for hampering the relief efforts by denying access to many foreign aid workers, increasing fears of a humanitarian crisis as waterborne diseases take hold.

In the week following the cyclone, Burmese state television reported an estimated death toll of over 22,000, with as many as 40,000 people still missing. A further 1 million were also thought to have been left homeless, after high winds battered five states and a tidal surge hit coastal regions. Rice fields in the country's coastal region have been destroyed and many areas still remain underwater, with long term damage from salt-water inundation feared. FAO has warned that up to two-thirds of the country's rice-growing areas have been affected, jeopardising the country's ability to export a predicted 600,000 tonnes of the staple grain this year, potentially forcing up the price of rice on world markets. Damage to the country's palm oil and rubber plantations is also expected.

Date published: May 2008


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