Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Saturday, 17 May 2008 13:16 UK

UK aid 'reaching cyclone victims'

Family outside ruined home in Burma
Hundreds of thousands of Burmese need urgent assistance

UK aid is reaching cyclone victims in Burma despite obstructions by the country's military junta, the agency coordinating public donations has said.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) says agencies are distributing aid through volunteers already in Burma.

But aid agencies warn that the relief effort must be stepped up.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has accused the junta of turning a natural disaster into a "man-made catastrophe" by blocking foreign aid efforts.

He said forced air-drops of aid were being considered, although charities are warning that these could prove to be "counter-productive".

And he added that Britain was looking at channelling its aid through China and countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).

The British government has pledged 17m to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis, with more 6m more coming from public donations via the DEC Myanmar (Burma) Cyclone Appeal.

4.6m already spent

The government donation includes an extra 12m pledged earlier this week.

The Department for International Development (Dfid) said 7m of the new money would go to the UN Flash Appeal, with the rest going to aid agencies.

Just a few pounds can provide essential shelter and aid to those left homeless by the cyclone.
Brendan Gormley, DEC Chief Executive

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said most of the 5m given the previous week had already been spent, with 4.6m used by aid agencies to provide drinking water, sanitation facilities, basic healthcare and shelter for more than 370,000 people.

Of the 7m of UK money going to the UN Flash Appeal, 5m is destined for the World Food Programme to provide logistical support for the relief operation.

Flash appeals raise cash to help the UN and its partners respond to natural disasters. A similar appeal was launched in January 2005 for the Asian tsunami late the previous month.

Public generosity

The Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for humanitarian aid agencies, said 6m of British public donations had reached at least 350,000 people since the cyclone struck.

The junta, which is currently controlling distribution, has allowed the UN and some other agencies to hand out supplies directly.

More than 1.1m to Save the Children to help 125,000 people in several towns in the Irrawaddy Delta
Up to 1m for Action Against Hunger to help 37,500 people in Bogale Township, Irrawaddy Delta
700,000 for Care to help 60,000 people in towns near Rangoon
500,000 for Medecins Sans Frontiers to help provide basic medical care, water and shelter for 100,000 people
More than 700,000 to Merlin to provide emergency healthcare for 50,000 in Laputta Township, Irrawaddy Delta

However, it is still preventing foreign aid workers from entering cyclone-hit areas. Agencies are relying on their in-country and local partner organisations to distribute supplies.

Public donations to the DEC Myanmar (Burma) Cyclone Appeal have exceeded 6m. The organisation's chief executive, Brendan Gormley, has said individual donations from the public are "vitally important".

Ken Caldwell, of Save the Children, told Sky News there was a "very immediate risk" of a second crisis forming in Burma, unless the scale of the aid effort was increased.

"The aid effort has to be scaled up very fast before we face the very immediate crisis of a second tranche of people facing illness or death.

"Particularly young children and old people will be most at risk in that situation.

"Therefore what we are concerned about is to get negotiations between international governments and the Burmese government to open up the space for us to get the supplies that are needed very urgently."

Aid for Burma 'must be monitored'
15 May 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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