UNICEF maintains operations in DPRK

Although the UN World Food Program was asked to leave the DPRK in March, along with US relief workers, the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) is still distributing¬†relief supplies.¬† Additionally, the UNDP is about to resume activities.¬† According to Yonhap:

The U.N. children’s agency said Wednesday its humanitarian aid operations in North Korea remain steady amid diplomatic tensions, and that Pyongyang will soon sign an agreement to allow a nationwide nutritional survey.

“The situation with regard to access and monitoring is the same as it has been in the past,” Gopalan Balagopal, UNICEF representative in Pyongyang, said in an email interview.

“UNICEF undertakes regular field visits to monitor progress of work and holds periodic review meetings with counterparts,” he said.

As part of efforts to improve the health of North Korean children and mothers, the agency will soon sign an agreement with the North Korean government to conduct a nutritional survey across the country, set to start in October, Balagopal said.

“We are finalizing a memorandum of understanding with the government shortly for going ahead with a multiple indicator cluster survey, which will have a nutrition component,” he said.

Another aid agency, the U.N. Development Program, is also preparing to restart its program in North Korea after a two-year hiatus, he said. Four UNDP members came to Pyongyang on May 19, and two of them are staying there, keeping “busy with work for restarting their program,” Balagopal said.

UNDP withdrew from Pyongyang in early 2007 after suspicions arose over North Korea’s misappropriation of development funds.

June is a typically lean period in the North in terms of food security, and UNICEF sees increasing numbers of malnourished children in nurseries and hospitals, according to the official.

North Korea’s harvest this year is expected to fall 1.17 million tons short of food needed to feed its 24 million people, according to the Seoul government. Even if the North’s own imports and Chinese aid are counted in, the net shortage will likely surpass 500,000 tons, it said.

Balagopal said his agency has secured about half of its US$13 million target budget for operations in North Korea this year.

He noted there are “some indications” that access to the provinces in the northeast may be restricted to the U.N. agencies. He did not elaborate and said the U.N. will stop its assistance if the access is not guaranteed.

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UNICEF aid flowing steady in N. Korea: Pyongyang chief


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