UNITED NATIONS (TIP): The United Nations is in urgent need of $98 million to finance emergency aid for the people of North Korea, the UN coordinator for the impoverished country said on August 15. Of the $150 million required to maintain food, health and sanitation programs by five UN agencies in the country for 2013, $98 million is still needed, the world body said. “External assistance continues to play a vital role in safeguarding the lives of millions,” UN resident coordinator Ghulam Isaczai said in a statement.
North Korea faces chronic food shortages and suffered from famine in the mid-1990s that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. “Without sustained humanitarian support, the gains made in the past 10 years in improving food security and the overall health and nutrition of the most vulnerable” could be reversed, Isaczai said. International aid, particularly from the United States and South Korea, has dried up in recent years amid tension over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Nearly 2.4 million North Koreans need regular food assistance and 28 percent of children under five suffer chronic malnutrition.
“While the overall humanitarian situation has improved slightly over the last 12 months, the structural causes of people’s vulnerability persist,” Isaczai said. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in a separate statement issued by his spokesman, called on donors to come forward to “respond to this serious situation.” Ban, who hails from South Korea, said he appreciated Seoul’s decision to provide humanitarian aid to Pyongyang via UNICEF, and said he hoped other countries would follow suit.