Aid groups: Ending Myanmar flights 'will hurt'
U.N. to stop flights between Thailand and Yangon on August 10
"It is a bit of a blow not to have the helicopters guaranteed", says World Vision
U.N. helicopters allowed relief workers to reach remote stretches of flooded delta
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- A United Nations decision to end aid flights to Myanmar next month could hurt relief efforts already struggling to reach millions of survivors with adequate food and water, humanitarian groups said Friday.
The U.N. plans to stop aid flights between Thailand's Don Muang airport and Myanmar's commercial capital, Yangon, on August 10 and withdraw the last five U.N. helicopters that have been ferrying relief supplies to the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta. Five other helicopters have already stopped flying.
Without the helicopters, relief groups will be forced to depend on boats and trucks to get supplies to the delta. The cargo at Don Muang will be transported by sea.
"It is a bit of a blow not to have the helicopters guaranteed," World Vision emergency coordination specialist Ashley Clements said by telephone from Myanmar.
"We're already dealing with a load that we didn't have enough helicopters for, so now the pressure will be compounded even more," he said. "If we have to go by road it means that supplies will be delayed."
Christine Kahmann, a spokeswoman for Action Against Hunger, agreed that ending the flights would hurt the relief effort.
The U.N. World Food Program's Paul Risley said the move to end the flights is a routine step as relief efforts in Myanmar shift to reconstruction following the May 2-3 cyclone that killed 84,537 people and left 53,836 more missing, according to the government.
The U.N. helicopters have allowed relief workers to reach remote stretches of the flooded delta that were cut off when the cyclone hit.
U.N. officials and aid groups have criticized Myanmar's military junta for its slow response to the disaster and for restricting access to the delta, saying it prevented enough food, water and shelter from reaching survivors.
The U.N. says many survivors still lack adequate food and water.
U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said last week that one out of two families in Myanmar have food supplies of only about one day or less and some 60,000 children are at risk of malnutrition. He said the cyclone wiped out 42 percent of the nation's overall food stocks.