By MICHAEL CASEY / AP WRITER
BANGKOK — Without hundreds of millions of dollars in additional assistance, many victims of last year's devastating cyclone in Burma will be unable to rebuild homes or replant flooded fields in the Irrawaddy delta, the British charity Oxfam said Thursday.
Foreign governments and charities provided at least $315 million for food aid and emergency assistance in the months after Cyclone Nargis hit the country May 2-3, 2008, killing 138,000 people and leaving 800,000 homeless.
But Oxfam said without several more years of aid, many of the 2.4 million people affected by the disaster will have a difficult time returning to the life they knew.
"Urgent international assistance is needed before June so that farming and fishing families can kick-start their upcoming harvest, repay their loans, and avoid losing any more to this devastating cyclone and its aftermath," Oxfam's Claire Light said.
Oxfam warned many families in the delta who depend on farming and fishing could fall further into debt without additional help, sapping their ability to provide food for their families and materials to build new homes.
Farmers lost rice crops to the cyclone making them unable to pay back loans or purchase seeds, water buffaloes and equipment needed to plant crops, Oxfam said. As a result, the harvest in December was 32 percent lower than the previous year.
Fishermen lost boats and nets in the disaster, making it impossible to earn the money they need to repay outstanding loans, the charity said.
"As people get more and more into debt, that reduces their ability to buy food and rebuild their shelters," Light said.
The Tripartite Core Group—representing Burmese government, UN agencies and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations—released a three-year reconstruction plan in February that calls for $700 million in funding. It could not provide figures on how much has been raised so far, though it said Britain, Japan and several European nations have promised to contribute.
Nargis was the worst natural disaster in Burma's modern history and the world's fifth deadliest in the past 40 years.