World

UN cuts relief flights to Burma, worrying aid groups

Cutbacks to United Nations aid flights to Burma next month could hamper relief efforts that have already been criticized for failing to provide adequate food and water to many of the survivors of Cyclone Nargis, humanitarian groups said Friday.

Cutbacks to United Nations aid flights to Burma next month could hamper relief efforts that have already been criticized for failing to provide adequate food and water to many of the survivors of Cyclone Nargis, humanitarian groups said Friday.

The UN plans to stop aid flights between Thailand's Don Muang airport and Burma's commercial capital, Rangoon, on Aug. 10 and withdraw the last five UN helicopters that have been ferrying relief supplies to Burma's hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta. Five other helicopters have already stopped flying.

Humanitarian groups will have to resort to getting supplies to the delta and the 2.4 million survivors there by land and sea.

"It is a bit of a blow not to have the helicopters guaranteed," World Vision emergency co-ordination specialist Ashley Clements said by telephone from Burma, also known as Myanmar.

Christine Kahmann, a spokeswoman for Action Against Hunger, concurred that relief efforts would be hurt by the cutbacks in flights.

The UN said the move to end the flights is a routine step as relief efforts in Burma shift to reconstruction following the May 2-3 cyclone that killed 84,537 people and left 53,836 more missing, according to the government.

Relief workers use the helicopters to get to remote areas of the delta that were cut off in the aftermath of the cyclone.

On Thursday, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization launched an appeal for $33.5 million US to help Burma's small farmers and fishermen.

Three-quarters of the farmers in the country's main agricultural region don't have enough seed to sow their fields fully by the end of the planting season next month, the FAO said.

The agency said up to 85 per cent of Burma's seed stocks were destroyed in the cyclone.

With files from the Associated Press