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UN Seeks $187 Million in Aid for the Victims of Cyclone in Burma

Appeal is to help meet the needs of more than 1.5 million people over the next six months. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

The United Nations is appealing to its members for one hundred eighty-seven million dollars in aid for victims of Cyclone Nargis in Burma. The powerful storm hit the country also called Myanmar a week ago.

Friday's emergency appeal said the aid would help meet the needs of more than one and a half million people over the next six months.

After the storm hit, Burmese leaders made a rare appeal for foreign help. But aid officials have largely faced delays and refusals of visas in their efforts to bring supplies and workers into the country. The Red Cross, though, has had greater success.

United Nations officials say deaths are likely to rise sharply unless food, clean drinking water, shelter and medicine arrive quickly.

On Friday the military government seized two planeloads of food and equipment flown in by the United Nations World Food Program. The government has said it wants to distribute foreign aid itself. The seizure led the World Food Program to suspend its flights. But agency officials later decided to send in two flights as planned on Saturday.

Also, American officials said Burma agreed to let the United States send a single planeload of supplies to the country on Monday.

Burmese officials say the cyclone left more than one million people homeless. About twenty-four million people live in the five areas struck by Cyclone Nargis. Complete villages were destroyed, and many roads are blocked. The Irrawaddy Delta River area was hit the worst.

Burmese reports say more than twenty thousand people are dead and forty thousand missing after the cyclone. American and other officials have warned that the number of dead could reach one hundred thousand because of disease. The Indian Ocean tsunami in two thousand four killed more than two hundred thousand people in South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Weather experts in India say they warned Burma of the cyclone in enough time to save lives.

Burma is one of the world’s most closed societies. The military has controlled the country since nineteen sixty-two. On Saturday the ruling generals plan to carry out a vote for a new constitution. The vote will be delayed in disaster areas until May twenty-fourth.

State media carried messages Friday reminding citizens that it was their patriotic duty to approve the new constitution. The leaders of Burma say the constitution is part of what they call a "road map to democracy" that will lead to general elections in two years. The opposition National League for Democracy says the constitution will only strengthen military control.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the government to postpone the vote nationwide. He says all available resources should go into efforts to recover from Cyclone Nargis.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. For more news about Burma, go to I’m Steve Ember.