U.N. Offers Food Aid to Flood-Hit North Korea


2006.07.26
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Recent flooding on the Korean Peninsula. Photo: AFP/Byun Yeong-wook

BANGKOK—The United Nations food agency has offered emergency humanitarian supplies to North Korea in the wake of floods which ravaged four provinces, an official said.

In some locations whole villages have been swept away.

"We have indicated our preparations to the government of North Korea, and that we are ready to provide immediate humanitarian aid for the persons who were affected by the flood," World Food Program (WFP) spokesman Paul Risley told Korean service reporter Myeong Hwa Jang in a phone interview from Bangkok.

"We have yet to hear from the government."

Risley said one WFP assessment team had traveled to North Korea in the wake of the floods, which were triggered by a typhoon in mid-July. "Overall, we estimate that more than 12,000 houses were destroyed by the flooding," he said.

Immediate humanitarian aid

"That may mean that upwards of 50,000 to 60,000 persons may have been left homeless by these floods and will likely require immediate humanitarian and food assistance," Risley added.

While the WPF was currently running a smaller food aid program in the isolated Stalinist state than it had in previous years, the agency had offered emergency feeding for up to 13,000 of those made homeless by the floods, he said.

Nearly 250 people are dead or missing in North Korea from heavy floods and landslides that washed away entire villages and destroyed vital crops earlier this month, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies .

"In some locations whole villages have been swept away and essential public facilities (such as clinics) destroyed, while widespread damage to roads and bridges has displaced and stranded many people," the Federation said in a statement.

Four provinces--South Pyongan, North Hwanghae, Kangwon, and South Hamgyong--were hardest hit, it said, adding that no appeal for international assistance had yet been made.

The WFP said its aid was conditional on the ability of its official to carry out follow-up visits to make sure the food was being delivered to the right people.

Pyongyang may be reluctant

"There may be some reluctance on the part of the government to accept our offer of food assistance because that means they will also accept our ability to do those follow-up visits," Risley told reporters.

"So we will wait and see what the government will decide to do. But...we are prepared to offer immediate shipments of food that we have available in North Korea," he said.

North Korea has been relying on international food handouts, especially those from South Korea and China, since being hit by a series of natural disasters in the mid-1990s.

Original reporting by RFA's Korean service. Director: Jaehoon Ahn. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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