U.N. seeks $221m in aid to North Korea


Children still suffering in large numbers

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A group of United Nations agencies is seeking U.S. $221 million in international aid for North Korea to address food and health care shortages that a U.N. spokesman described as a �chronic emergency� without an end in sight, RFA�s Korean service reports.

Fifteen U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations launched the appeal Nov. 19 in Geneva, Rick Corsino, director of the World Food Programme (WFP) in North Korea, told a Beijing news conference.

The Rome-based WFP is asking for U.S. $192 million; UNICEF U.S. $12.7 million; the World Health Organization U.S. $7 million; the Food and Agriculture Organization U.S. $3 million; and the U.N. Population Fund U.S. $672,000.

�It's a continuation of a chronic emergency� without a clear end in sight,� he said. �By all measures, the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] remains a country in need of massive humanitarian support.�

Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF's representative in North Korea, said 40 percent of children were chronically malnourished last year compared with 60 percent in 1998. Some 70,000 children remain malnourished and at risk of dying without medical treatment, she said.

North Korea has received about 8 million tons of food aid since 1995, when the secretive Stalinist regime revealed that its state farm industry had collapsed from decades of mismanagement and the loss of Soviet subsidies.

Spokesmen for several U.N. agencies cited improvements over the last several years in crop production and rates of child malnutrition.

Donations to North Korea failed to meet demand over the last two years, with UNICEF projects underfunded by half, Corsino said. He declined to link the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program to the shortfall.

Critics complain that sending any aid to North Korea props up the regime and feeds mainly the military, which comprises 1.14 million people.


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