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One Million Cyclone Victims Have Received Aid in Burma

United Nations aid agencies say they have been able to reach about one million survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Burma, also known as Myanmar, with aid. That is slightly more than 40 percent of those affected by the devastating storm, which killed nearly 80,000 people, with 56,000 still missing. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The United Nations says it is planning to increase its humanitarian operation now that Burma's military rulers are granting more access to cyclone -affected areas.

Until now, U.N. Officials say most people who have received assistance live around Burma's main city of Rangoon. It says nearly 1.5 million people in the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta have not received any international aid.

A spokeswoman for the UN Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, Elizabeth Byrs, says it will be difficult to reach them.

"In the Irrawaddy Delta, we have a logistical nightmare because of those hundreds of rivers, hundreds of small islands and...some places are only reachable by boat, inflatable boats," Byrs said. "So, it is a problem, major problem."

Another problem is the monsoon. Byrs says it is critical to try to reach as many victims as possible before the roads become impassable when the monsoon season reaches its peak in a couple of weeks.

But, she notes the United Nations has made plans for alternate forms of distributing aid.

"We have already organized the delivery of assistance in order to rely more upon the boat delivery than truck delivery, of course," Byrs said. "And, of course, these nine helicopters, the WFP [World Food Program] helicopters, which are expected very soon.It will be a major step in the delivery of assistance."

Byrs says the U.N. has huge warehouses in Rangoon and Bangkok where they can store relief items. She says the so-called air bridge between Bangkok and Rangoon is working well with 10 to 15 humanitarian flights taking off every day.

The U.N. Children's Fund says it plans to move rapidly to assist tens of thousands of children and women who have been severely affected by the devastating storm.

UNICEF spokesman, Michael Klaus, says probably 20 to 30 additional international experts will be required to conduct rapid assessments of the needs in the Irrawaddy Delta.

"We estimate that still around one million people have not been reached at all in the Irrawaddy Delta and since we estimate that roughly 40 percent of them are children, we can estimate some 400,000 children are not reached at all," Klaus said. "We know that hundreds of unaccompanied children have been seen and registered, including infants, children under two years of age, who need urgent support."

Klaus says many of the children and women are homeless. They have lost their personal possessions and are exposed to many risks. He says the children are most in need of clean drinking water, sanitation, proper nutrition and shelter.