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UN Report on Burma's Recovery From 2008 Cyclone Points to Progress in Key Areas

A United Nations report on Burma's recovery from Cyclone Nargis says progress has been achieved in key areas such as child development and health care. But communities in the Irrawaddy Delta still struggle to sustain their livelihoods and rebuild homes lost in the 2008 storm.

The report issued Tuesday provides an upbeat assessment of recovery in the Irrawaddy Delta less than two years after Cyclone Nargis swept through the region in May 2008.

Cyclone Nargis left up to 140,000 people dead or missing. Over two million people were affected by the storm. Total losses were estimated at over $4 billion.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Burma's military government and the United Nations formed the Tripartite Core Group shortly after the storm to assess and coordinate the recovery effort.

The group's latest survey covered 1,400 households, and particularly focused on the most vulnerable, such as landless families and those headed by women.

The survey reported improvements in child mortality, and child nutrition, as well as greater access to health care and clean water.

Esben Harboe, a special assistant in the office of the U.N.'s resident coordinator in Burma, says the survey shows despite the gains, there is still much to do.

"The key message is progress is evident but there's still a lot more to do in terms of recovery and especially within two areas, which is [are] livelihood and shelter. These are the areas where the respondents in the survey said that they still need assistance," said Harboe.

The survey found that 50 percent of the shelters surveyed were judged to be safe, but over 80 percent of surveyed households considered their homes to be of poorer quality than before the cyclone.

Harboe says the delta region still faces challenges because of its lack of development and poverty. Burma is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.

"It's very positive we can record improvements within a number of areas but there's still - even it is back to a pre-Nargis situation - pre-Nargis it was very bad. So it's not to say that there's nothing more to do even if it's back to normal so to speak," said Harboe.

A reconstruction plan by the United Nations, ASEAN and Burma's military government has called for $690 million in aid. Aid workers have also say that additional international funds will be needed to fully rebuild Irrawaddy Delta communities.

Burma's isolated military government originally refused and blocked most foreign aid after the massive cyclone. It took the intervention of the United Nations and ASEAN to persuade the military to allow in foreign aid workers and donated supplies.