The United Nations will launch its largest appeal for food aid to North Korea by reminding donor nations that UN food has helped the isolated nation emerge from its shell, a UN official said Wednesday.
Catherine Bertini, head of the World Food Program (WFP), will launch an inter-agency appeal for aid to Africa and North Korea in Stockholm later Wednesday, Dr. Dilawar Ali Khan, UNICEF representative to North Korea said.
Khan said the appeal for North Korea, the sixth such appeal since 1996, would be larger than the 600,000 tons of grain delivered as part of a 1999 aid appeal, which was the largest UN-organized aid package so far to Pyongyang.
"We need to get the message across to the donor nations that the aid should be spread across the four major concerns of food, health, water and sanitation," Khan said.
"If we expect to see a sustainable recovery by North Korea from its difficulties then we need to address all these areas together," he said.
Bertini will announce the specifics of the package from Stockholm, he said.
Khan, who is based in Pyongyong, predicted that international aid to North Korea would need to continue until "the development of its external relations will help to sustain the country in the long term."
Khan acknowledged there were wide-ranging estimates as to how many lives the seven years of food shortages in North Korea had taken.
He would only say that the figure lies somewhere between the 600,000 put forward by the North Korean government and the up to three million by independent reports.
The presence of United Nations agencies in North Korea since 1996 has worked towards opening up the Communist nation, crowned by the historic June summit between North and South Korea, he said.
"Through our work we have created a lot of good will, but we still have a zone of discomfort that we want to overcome ... so we are asking the donor nations to bear with these difficulties a few more years," he said.
Since 1995, WFP has distributed some 1.8 million tons of food worth 635 million dollars to North Korea.
The country's food problems are generally attributed to the collapse of its economy following the fall of the former Soviet Union, once North Korea's leading trading partner and aid provider. That has been exacerbated by successive years of drought and flooding since 1995.
Of the more than seven million people that UN agencies fed in 2000, some 6.4 million are below the age of 18, or are pregnant women or hospitalized patients, according to reports issued by the WFP -- BEIJING (AFP)
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