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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Burma urges UN aid fund to stay
A Burmese family passes Saturday, Aug. 20, 2005 an anti-AIDS campaign board erected in downtown Rangoon.
Some 600,000 people in Burma are thought to have HIV or Aids
Burma has asked a UN-led group to reconsider its decision to stop funding health projects in the country.

The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria said last week that it would withdraw funding because of obstructions to its activities.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said on Friday that aid workers were unable to carry out their work properly.

But in a statement, Burmese officials rejected the claims and said the withdrawal would affect those in need.

Burma's Country Co-ordinating Mechanism, which is chaired by the health minister, said that it "strongly deplores the negative impact" the move will have.

In a statement published in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Tuesday, it said the restrictions on aid workers were only temporary, and "do not justify irreversible termination of grants".

"The Global Fund's response is clearly disproportionate," it is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Last year the Global Fund agreed to spend $100m over five years combating disease in Burma.

Regrettable decision

This is the first time the Geneva-based Global Fund has withdrawn from a country in which it is operating.

It said its decision was regrettable, given the serious epidemics threatening the impoverished Burmese population.

According to UNAids, an estimated 600,000 people in Burma have HIV or Aids, and the country is thought to have one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the world.

But spokeswoman Rosie Vanek told the Associated Press on Friday that it was the organisation's "basic principle" to ensure that the money it was given was well spent, and that travel restrictions on aid workers in Burma made it difficult to carry out its work properly.

"The Global Fund has now concluded that the grants cannot be implemented in a way that ensures effective programme implementation," she said.

All the group's activities in Burma are set to cease by 1 December.

The Global Fund - an independent organisation of governments and private groups set up by the UN - works in more than 100 countries, trying to combat deaths from Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

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