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Myanmar’s Government Slowly Opens to Foreign Aid

Weeks after Cyclone Nargis devastated portions of Myanmar, its reclusive government has slowly allowed small numbers of foreign aid workers to enter the country. U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes updates the humanitarian situation.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Myanmar, the former Burma, opens the door a bit to foreign help after its deadly cyclone. Judy Woodruff has that story.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    A handful of foreign relief workers are going into the Irrawaddy Delta now.

    That opening, nearly a month after the cyclone, followed a Friday meeting between U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leader of the military junta, General Than Shwe.

    But how open will Myanmar's rulers be to a large foreign presence in their country?

    We hear more now from John Holmes, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs. He is just back from Myanmar.

    Mr. Holmes, first of all, what is the latest that you can report to us on the situation there?

  • JOHN HOLMES, United Nations Under-Secretary-General:

    Well, the situation, in terms of international relief workers, is that I think the question of visas has been largely resolved. All the outstanding visas to get into the country for U.N. relief workers have now been granted.

    And I think the position is improving a lot, also, for international nongovernmental organizations, like World Vision, or Oxfam, or Save the Children. So that's good progress.

    The key point is how far people are allowed into the worst-affected areas in the delta to actually do the work that they are paid for and that they have the experience and expertise for, to do the assessments, and to organize the relief effort as well as it can possibly be organized, given the need to reach so many people in such difficult conditions.

    We've seen some progress there. As you said, there are international relief workers beginning to go into that area. There are no formal restrictions on numbers or nationality at the moment; there was a notification procedure that needs to be followed, and that takes a little bit of time.

    But we're still at the beginning of this process. We're still exploring it. The early signs are encouraging, but what we want to see is full, rapid and durable implementation.

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