TORONTO - The federal government ramped up its support for relief efforts in Myanmar Friday, announcing $12 million in additional aid.
The money will help the UN, Canadian and international relief agencies provide food, medicine and basic supplies to thousands of cyclone victims, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda told a news conference.
Canada's commitment for relief efforts is now in the $14 million dollar range.
The federal government committed $2 million on May 8, and has also agreed to match donations made by ordinary Canadians to the Burma Cyclone Relief Fund.
The government is working with UNICEF, World Vision Canada, the International Federation of the Red Cross and other Canadian and international organizations because they have an established presence in Myanmar, Oda said.
"They have ... an appropriate level of operational independence and the capacity to respond to the most critical needs of the Burmese people, " she said.
"With Canadian support these organizations will be undertaking supplementary relief efforts in food distribution, providing critical shelter, distributing health and nutrition needs, undertaking water and sanitation initiatives."
Canadian aid agencies say they are managing to help cyclone victims, despite the country's nearly-closed border.
CARE Canada president Kevin McCort says his and other agencies have had 1,000 aid workers on the ground in Myanmar for more than a decade.
However, officials from Oxfam, CARE and other groups are afraid Canadians won't donate money to the Myanmar cause due to reports about reluctance by the military junta to let foreign workers in.
Early Friday, the Myanmar government appeared to open the door to foreign aid workers, after refusing access for weeks.
After a crucial two-hour meeting with junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the junta had agreed to allow "all aid workers" into the country and had also agreed to let in aid "via civilian ships and small boats."
There was no immediate public announcement from Myanmar's military government confirming the agreement and no indication how quickly it would be implemented.
A Canadian Forces C-17 Globemaster plane arrived in the region last weekend with 40 tonnes of relief supplies, including 2,000 emergency shelter kits.
The federal government has also offered its Disaster Assistance Response Team.
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