U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Thursday for Myanmar’s military rulers to quickly exempt all visa requirements for United Nations aid workers trying to enter the country to help thousands of victims of Cyclone Nargis.
While some aid workers have been admitted, many U.N. workers and others have been denied access to the East Asian country.
Speaking alongside Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue at a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta’s Buckhead community, Mr. Ban said that U.N. aid workers should be admitted to the country immediately because of the “critical timing” needed to prevent other deaths and the spread of disease.
According to news reports, Burmese state media has said that nearly 23,000 people have died as a result of the devastating cyclone, and more than 40,000 are missing. Shari Villarosa, U.S. charges d’affaires in Myanmar, has said that the death toll could climb as high as 100,000.
Mr. Ban had visited CNN before the midday press conference at the mansion. The Atlanta-based news network listed on its Web site 23 U.S. cities with a population of some 100,000 residents as a point of comparison for the number of people that could die as a result of the May 2 storm.
Charleston, S.C.; Savannah and Athens/Clarke County made the list.
While Mr. Ban said the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the resources to provide aid for victims of the natural catastrophe, he was firm that all aid efforts would have to be coordinated by the U.N.
“I am deeply concerned about this tragedy,” Mr. Ban said, adding that he was equally distressed by the inability of some food and international aid workers to enter the country.
Myanmar is holding a constitutional referendum that began May 10 and is expected to supposedly legitimize the military junta’s rule.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr. Ban visited the Atlanta University Center’s Robert W. Woodruff Library, where he saw original papers written by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
During his two-day visit to Atlanta, Mr. Ban is to go to the Carter Center and the CDC as well as meet with business and community leaders.
He also visited CIFAL Atlanta, the Atlanta office of a U.N. organization that provides training and research to government officials and civic leaders throughout the Western Hemisphere.