UN official calls for aid to North Korea
A senior United Nations official yesterday called for urgent aid to North Korea, pleading with international donors to overlook political difficulties in the face of a humanitarian crisis.
Valerie Amos, head of the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, said of the estimated US$210 million needed to confront dire food shortages in the communist state, only about 15 percent had been pledged.
"In North Korea we're facing a situation where about six million people are in danger of not getting enough to eat," Baroness Amos told AFP from Canberra.
"We are really facing a very, very serious situation."
In Washington, the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to bar US food aid to North Korea saying the assistance would prop up the communist regime instead of feeding the hungry.
"Politically it's a very closed society, and we know of problems there in terms of governance, inclusivity and openness. But at the end of the day it is the people who are suffering who matter," said Amos.
Amos said she had recently agreed to commit an additional US$7.2 million dollars from the UN's central emergency response fund to North Korea.
"But I mean it is a drop in the ocean compared to what is required," she said.
Impoverished North Korea has requested overseas aid, with US relief groups that visited the country earlier this year saying people were again eating grass and tree bark.
Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans died in a famine in the 1990s.