North Korea In Dire Need For Food Aid
Nearly a quarter of North Korea is in dire need for food aid, says a report from the United Nations. The latest report will put pressure on the U.S. government to resume international food assistance to the East Asian country.
U.S. halted food aid in 2009
Washington had suspended food aids to North Korea two years ago when Pyongyang expelled the former’s private organizations, which had been placed for the monitoring of food distribution in the Korean peninsula. The report puts the U.S. in dilemma because, if it resumes aid, it will indirectly support a government, which is widely criticized for its nuclear weapons programs.
Harsh weather plunge North Korea into food crisis
According to the U.N.’s last week report, which was based on February-March assessment, 6 million North Koreans need food aid after summer’s floods, chilly winters and a series of natural adversities plunge the country into a food crisis, affecting elderly, children, and the women. The UNICEF, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization, on North Korea’s request, visited 40 counties in nine provinces to conduct the assessment.
American agencies report on North Korea's food scarcity
The visit came less than a month after five non-government American aid agencies warned about alarming malnutrition among children due to severe food shortages. The five organizations, Christian Friends of Korea, Global Resource Services, Mercy Corps, Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision, in their February report, said that the unusually harsh cold destroyed up to 80 percent of wheat, barley and potato seedlings. It further said that North Korea could not even import sufficient food supplies because of rising food prices globally.
U.N. calls 430,000 metric tons of food aid
In its recommendations, the U.N. called on the international community to provide nearly 430,000 metric tons of food aid, predicting that the country’s public food distribution system will go empty between May and July. It added that this food scarcity could further increase risk of malnutrition and other diseases.
U.S. wants govt's assurance on proper monitoring
Responding to the U.N. calls, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said that Washington does not out rightly rejects calls to resume food aid to North Korea in the wake of news that North Korea is in need of food aid. However, it considers resumption only when Pyongyang agrees to allow proper monitoring. "It is tempting to withhold food assistance until North Korea abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons or adopts economic reforms. But the North demonstrated during the famine in the mid-to-late 1990s, in which an estimated 5-10 percent of ordinary North Koreans died, that it is willing to allow its people to suffer enormously," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement.
International donors unwilling to resume aid
For the time being, international donors are also seen reluctant in resuming food aid to North Korea amid fears that the assistance destined for civilians may be redirected to the country’s powerful military. If any decision on assistance will be taken later, the donors are expected to demand an assurance from the government against the aid’s misuse.
In response to the two reports, the Unification Ministry announced that the U.N. would soon send its delegation to South Korea to find out whether North Korea is really in dire need of food aid.
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