Asean unveils cyclone relief plan for Myanmar

May 19th, 2008 - 7:43 pm ICT by admin  

Singapore, May 19 (DPA) A coordinating mechanism led by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) will facilitate the distribution and utilisation of assistance from the international community to bring relief to survivors of the Myanmar cyclone, a special meeting of Asean foreign ministers said Monday. Describing the aid plan as “the best step forward”, Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo said, “We wish it could have been done sooner”.

International pressure has been mounting over the reclusive country’s unwillingness to allow aid workers, medical staff and other personnel from Western countries to enter.

Aid agencies have warned that thousands of children who survived the cyclone will starve to death in two to three weeks unless food is rushed to them.

“Personnel from Asean countries are in Myanmar,” Yeo said.

Myanmar estimates losses will run over $10 billion in rescue supplies, shelters, boats and rehabilitation, Yeo said.

The ministers agreed to establish a task force to be headed by Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan which will work closely with the UN as well as a central coordinating body to be set up by Myanmar to realise the Asean-led mechanism, a chairman’s statement said.

“The meeting agreed that this Asean-led approach was the best way forward,” it said.

Myanmar “has agreed to accept the immediate dispatch of medical teams from all the Asean countries”, the plan said.

“Asean has sent an emergency rapid assessment team to Myanmar and is ready to provide additional support,” it noted. “Myanmar should allow more international relief workers into the stricken areas as the need is most urgent, given the unprecedented scale of the humanitarian disaster” that hit May 3 and has left 133,000 people dead and missing.

The international community also stands ready to assist and provide additional resources to alleviate the situation, the statement said. “Myanmar is also prepared to accept the expertise of international and regional agencies to help in its rehabilitation efforts,” it noted.

Asean will work with the UN to hold an Asean-UN international pledging conference to be held in Yangon May 25.

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