07/29/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR - UN
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10 million dollars in UN aid “disappear” thanks to Burmese Junta’s exchange rates

The military junta increased dollar-kyat exchange rates by over 20% the very month of the disastrous cyclone Nargis. According to the UN the situation in the worst affected region is slowly improving.

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The United Nations has revealed “significant losses” in the distribution of aid to Burmese people hit by cyclone Nargis.  The loss – amounting to 10 million US dollars – is the result of heavy exchange rates set by the Junta.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes outlined the “seriousness of the problem”: the loss was "significant" because of the spread between the market and official exchange rates which widened suddenly in June (one month after the devastating passage of cyclone Nargis).   Aid was set in US dollars then changed to local currency the Kyat. The market rate for kyats is around 1,100 per dollar but the UN rate established the junta in Myanmar and payment is now around 880, resulting in a “loss of about 10 million US dollars”.

Holmes, who spoke at the United Nations after returning from a trip to the Irrawaddy Delta, said relief efforts were improving, with almost everyone affected by the cyclone now having been reached with items like food or shelter.

Nargis hit Myanmar’s coastal region May this year, leaving more than 140,000 dead and missing people. According to the UN official some 2.5 million people still need assistance to cope with the disaster's aftermath.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster the military junta refused International aid.  Later it agreed to foreign relief under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) supervision.

Holmes did not exclude that the Burmese government are profiting from the hike in Exchange rates.

The UN appealed for 482 million dollars in International donations to aid the victims of cyclone Nargis.

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