Relief needs still acute in Myanmar

May 2, 2009 at 1:53 PM

YANGON, Myanmar, May 2 (UPI) -- A year after a deadly cyclone devastated Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of victims there still need help, U.N. relief officials say.

Even though aid groups have now been allowed by Myanmar's military junta to operate freely in the country, they are being hampered by a lack of international donations, the BBC reported Saturday.

The United Nations and neighboring countries were hoping to raise $700 million to help the 2 million people left homeless by Cyclone Nargis, which also killed 140,000 residents last year. But so far, only $100 million has been contributed, the British broadcaster said.

Potential donors are afraid their money will be misused by the junta, but that is an unfounded concern, Save the Children's Andrew Kirkwood told the BBC.

"We have 3,000 of our own staff in the delta, and I'm absolutely confident that the assistance given to STC and other agencies got exactly where it was supposed to go -- there has been no systematic diversion of those funds," he said.

Efforts to raise awareness about the situation have been hampered by Myanmar's severe restrictions on the news media.

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