US donates food aid to 350,000 cyclone victims

Apr 3, 2009 (DVB), A senior official at the US embassy in Rangoon traveled to cyclone-hit Irrawaddy Delta on Tuesday to oversee the distribution of over 16,000 tones of rice donated by the US government in February.

Since cyclone Nargis hit last May, causing the death of over 140,000 people, the US has contributed $US74 million in aid. The 16,620 tons of rice that arrived in February are part of a package that included over 3000 tons of oil and pulses.

US Embassy staff, including Charge d'Affaires Larry Dinger, accompanied the Country Director of the World Food Programme, Chris Kaye, to a number of villages in the delta on Tuesday to observe its distribution, which the WFP estimates will reach 350,000 people.

"As I guess you know the people of the United States heard about the disaster that happened to you and we were very happy to assist the World Food Programme and your own government," said Larry Dinger.

"Please know that the American people really have been very concerned for you and that concern continues."

Some of the food aid is being distributed under an NGO-run food-for-work scheme aimed at rebuilding infrastructure in the delta.

Estimates of the total number thought to have been severely affected by the cyclone stand at around 2.4 million.

A number of both foreign and domestic Burmese news agencies accompanied the mission, suggesting that, in this instance at least, restrictions on aid distribution and reporting from the delta have eased somewhat in comparison to the immediate aftermath of the cyclone.

Last May, in the days following the cyclone, the Burmese government refused offers of overseas aid and denied visas to journalists attempting to enter the country.

A number of Burmese citizens have received lengthy prison sentences for cooperating with foreign news agencies and assisting cyclone victims.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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