'Clear evidence of humanitarian need' in North Korea: UN aid chief - International

Aid – around 40% of the population in North Korea needs humanitarian aid the UN has said More

Aid – around 40% of the population in North Korea needs humanitarian aid the UN has said More

The UN official, who arrived in North Korea on Monday to check the situation of humanitarian aid to the country, met with the North's health minister Jang Jun-sang and the North's nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam during his four-day trip.

Its 2017 plan appealed for USD$113 million but received only 31% of the total asked for - including $5 million from Switzerland, $3 million from Russian Federation, and $1 million from the United States.

Mark Lowcock, the United Nations aid chief, returned to Beijing from Pyongyang on Thursday, after looking into what is believed to be a precarious food situation in North Korea due in part to natural disasters.

"They are keen to work with humanitarian agencies and are open to additional humanitarian assistance, and are also keen to deal with humanitarian issues separately from political dynamics", Lowcock said.

At a press conference on Wednesday in Pyongyang, he said that although Pyongyang has made significant advances, there are still many challenges ahead when it comes to health and sanitation.

Lowcock said about 20 percent of North Korea's children have suffered malnutrition and more than half of the North's children in rural areas, including the places Lowcock's team has seen, lack clean water.

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He said his North Korean counterparts expressed interest in further United Nations assistance and suggested ways of improving the process.

He said the DPRK has made a lot of progress, illustrated by the fact that the number of stunted children has dropped from 28 percent to 20 percent since 2012.

Besides malnutrition and water, Lowrock also highlighted a shortage of drugs and medical supplies and equipment.

The Global Fund, however, pulled out of North Korea earlier this year, citing an inability to deploy resources or manage the "unique operating environment".

WFP director David Beasley, too, said after a visit to the North in May that his organization had "greater monitoring and greater access than any time period that I'm familiar with".

The UN representative also noted that the DPRK "remains very vulnerable to natural disasters".

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