U.N. relief agency considers stepping up food aid to N. Korea: report


A U.N. relief official said North Korea currently receives only a small portion of the food aid it needs and his agency is considering stepping up aid to feed almost 2 million more people, a U.S. government-funded radio station reported Saturday.

In an interview reaching here Saturday through the Korean version of the VOA’s Web site, Robin Lodge, a spokesperson for the World Food Program (WFP), said international relief agencies, including the Office of Food for Peace, recently gathered in Rome, Italy and discussed the possibility of sending the communist state additional food that could feed 1.9 million people there.

Lodge was also quoted by the U.S.-funded broadcaster as saying North Korea currently receives from his agency only about 10 percent of what it needs to feed the 7 million believed to be suffering from starvation.

North Korea does not release any official data on its food situation but many outsiders believe that more than 2 million people died when famine swept through the country in the late 1990s.

Good Friends, a Seoul-based relief group dedicated to North Korea, said in its latest weekly newsletter on Wednesday that a growing number of North Koreans died of starvation or hunger-caused diseases recently, especially in remote areas.

“Famine-driven deaths began to occur across North Korea in late June,” the report said. “In some cities and counties in the provinces of North Pyongan, Ryanggang, Jagang and South and North Hamkyong, the number of deaths is on the increase daily.”

The reports contradict widespread reports that the North’s food situation has improved significantly in recent years.

On Friday, Seoul started sending 50,000 tons of rice aid to North Korea overland as part of its promised loan of 400,000 tons of rice aid.

Over the next five weeks, the South is to deliver 30,000 tons of rice to the North via a road passing through the border town of Kaesong, while another 20,000 tons will be transported across a paved road on the east coast. South Korea is delivering 350,000 tons of rice to the communist country by sea.

South Korea resumed shipping rice aid to North Korea in late June after more than a one-year hiatus, as the North shut down its nuclear facilities in the first step toward eventual nuclear dismantlement.


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