Top UN Official in Asia-Pacific Region Calls for Urgent Humanitarian Access to Myanmar

In the wake of the devastating Cyclone Nargis, the humanitarian situation in Myanmar is growing increasingly desperate with reported deaths topping 100,000 with at least 42,000 known missing and nearly 1.5 million people severely affected and a real danger that an even worse tragedy might unfold if urgently needed aid does not get in quickly to the people affected.

“I am deeply concerned and saddened by the continuing tragedy unfolding in Myanmar,” said Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP, the regional arm of the United Nations in Asia and the Pacific.

The UN Secretary-General has been mobilizing all the Agencies and Funds and Programmes of the United Nations who deal with humanitarian assistance to bring urgent assistance to the people of Myanmar and has been coordinating efforts with the international community.

While the United Nations is very much encouraged by the outpouring of support and aid it is also deeply concerned by the inability of many food aid and international aid workers not being able to deliver as quickly and as much food and aid as needed. “The situation is getting critical and there is only a small window of opportunity if we are to avert the spread of diseases that could multiply the already tragic number of casualties,” said Ms. Heyzer. Echoing the words of the Secretary-General, Ms. Heyzer “urged again the Myanmar authorities to issue visas expeditiously, and if possible, exempt all visa requirements for all UN aid workers, so that aid can reach the people as quickly as possible.”

The Under-Secretary-General further stated that she planned to personally go as soon as possible to Myanmar to show her solidarity with the people of Myanmar and to meet with the Government of Myanmar to discuss access and humanitarian assistance.