UN stops food aid to cyclone-hit Burma fearing nepotism by military junta

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London, May 10 : The United Nation's World Food Programme (WFP) has stopped emergency food shipments to the zone where Cyclone Nargis had hit, fearing that the Burmese Government will give the aid preferentially to its supporters.

According to a report in New Scientist, the WFP made its decision after Burma's military dictators impounded the first shipment on arrival.

Cyclone Nargis, which hit southern Burma last Saturday, devastated the delta of the Irawaddy River, the country's main rice growing region. Up to 100,000 may have been killed, and hundreds of thousands are homeless.

The WFP has said it will not deliver emergency relief unless it can supervise its distribution to ensure it reaches those most in need.

The Burmese government, which violently suppressed popular protests of high food and fuel prices last September, is insisting on distributing foreign aid itself.

Opposition campaigners fear the junta will give the aid preferentially to its supporters.

According to UN's FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), the storm washed away rice stores from the recent harvest, on which the many subsistence farmers depend.

FAO has warned that Burma is due to get its next crop in when monsoon rains start in June, but people have no equipment to do it.

"The hardest-hit villages lost all their farming assets, as well as the food stored for the rest of the year," said Anne Bauer, head of emergency operations at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy.

"These poor farmers will not have sufficient resources to purchase seed and fertilisers, protect surviving livestock and replace lost ones," she added.

The survivors could soon be facing disease, too.

Robert Hodgson of RedR, a British disaster relief charity, predicts that because of the high water table in the affected delta region, decomposing human and livestock remains will be hard to bury safely and could pollute water supplies.

Water-borne diseases from the survivors, meanwhile, might be a worse problem. Cholera, typhoid and dysentery are all present in Burma.

ANI

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