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UN Calls for Help for Burma's Cyclone Damaged Farms

The U.N. World Food Program has made an urgent appeal for funds to assist Burmese farmers whose lands were devastated by Cyclone Nargis last year. Many communities in the Irrawaddy Delta may be years away from full recovery.

The World Food Program says international aid is coming too slowly to help farmers plant crops for this season.

The Irrawaddy Delta, known as the rice bowl of Burma, was devastated last May by Cyclone Nargis, which claimed more than 130,000 lives.

The WFP representative in Burma, Chris Kaye, says cash for farmers for the planting season is the key issue for local communities. Many local credit sources dried up after the cyclone.

"The main concern remains the availability of funds, of cash, of credit, in order to enable farmers to purchase the inputs required for the planting season for the monsoon rice crop," he said.

Kaye says money is only "trickling in" and there is growing concern contributions will fall short or will not arrive in time for the planting season.

International donors have sought guarantees on how aid is used in Burma because of fears the government will siphon money away. A recent U.N. appeal has raised just 60 percent of the money requested.

The WFP request for additional short-term funds came as the agency released a report on the damage Nargis did and the international effort to help survivors.

The storm swept away homes, forestry, assets and livelihoods. The storm surge pushed ocean water far inland, destroying crops and damaging the soil.

Despite efforts by international aid agencies, Kaye says questions remain over whether some areas of the delta will ever fully recover.

"Will the delta ever be the same again? I sense not. The psycho-social care, the psycho-social needs of people are immense and the likes of MSF and UNICEF have concentrated on those as best they can - but I sense, like you, it is inadequate in relation to the overall need," he said.

But others are less pessimistic. Belete Temesgen, emergency coordinator of World Vision International, says local communities are "very resilient."

"Of course there are challenges - there is a lot that needs to be done but with the assistance, the planning that we are doing together with these communities I think that the efforts that we are making definitely they will recover but much needs to be done," he said.

World Vision expects it will take the region four more years to recover.

The cyclone affected more than two million people, and was the deadliest disaster in Asia since the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which nearly 200,000 lives.