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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK
UN in aid plea for Burma's poor
Children work in a village near Rangoon on 17 October 2007
Burma's people are getting poorer, the UN says
Burma's economy is getting worse and more people are likely to need food aid in the future, a senior World Food Programme official has warned.

A dysfunctional economy has trapped millions in poverty, and aid is not reaching many who needed help, WFP's Asia director Tony Banbury said.

A lack of funding means that WFP cannot feed all those in need, he added.

Poverty was a key trigger for last month's anti-government protests, which the military brutally suppressed.

Tens of thousands of people came out onto the streets to join weeks of monk-led demonstrations.

Burma's military used violence to end the protests and arrested thousands of people, prompting international condemnation.

The UN's special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, is currently touring Burma's regional neighbours to press them to use their influence with the military authorities.

Speaking in Indonesia, he said that the military government could be offered incentives in exchange for democratic reforms.

He is due to return to Burma in mid-November for more talks.

'Worse and worse'

Mr Banbury's comments followed a week-long visit to Burma.

August's rise in the price of fuel - the immediate trigger for the protests - had hit people hard.

Troops and a military truck in Rangoon on 1 October 2007
Burma's military has imposed trade and travel restrictions

"The economic situation is getting worse and worse, including in the cities, and it's of major concern to the WFP," he told the BBC.

Government trade and travel restrictions were making things harder for people, he added.

He cited examples of landless villagers with no access to work, and farmers who were not allowed to travel to markets to sell their rice but forced to sell it locally at fixed prices.

Aid was also failing to reach some areas because of government travel restrictions and infrastructural issues, he said.

He appealed for more funding from the international community, so that the WFP could help all those in need.

WFP operations in Burma were only 30% funded at the moment, he said, noting that recent concern over events there had not translated into increased donations.

"Humanitarian organisations can help, but we are faced with insufficient funding and whatever we manage to accomplish in the current circumstances will only scratch the surface," he said.


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