DPRK makes progress in humanitarian field, but challenges remain: UN official

Aid – around 40% of the population in North Korea needs humanitarian aid the UN has said More

The UN's Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, was the first UN humanitarian official to visit the North in seven years.

The UN delegation began a four-day visit to North Korea on Monday, during which it also visited the Pyongyang Children's Foodstuff Factory, the Tower of the Juche Idea and the Korean Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability, the KCNA report said.

Lowcock spoke positively of North Korea's progress on humanitarian issues since the starvation of the 1990s, but also said there was still much to be done on such issues including "malnutrition, better water and sanitation, and more life-saving drugs and other medical supplies".

In particular, according to him, about half of the rural children in the DPRK do not have access to clean water, according to DW.

The United Nations humanitarian chief said Wednesday he had seen "clear evidence" of need in North Korea - where one fifth of children are malnourished - during a rare trip.

Mortality rates for under-fives are 20 percent higher in the countryside than in towns, it said, adding a shortage of funding had forced it to stop nutrition support to kindergartens since November 2017.

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According to the Needs and Priorities Plan published by the United Nations a few months ago, $111 million is needed to meet humanitarian needs in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and food security for about 6 million people.

Lowcock also said that he had "good discussions" with the authorities in Pyongyang who were providing better access that they used to.

"The North Korean authority tends to exaggerate the food problem, because they are interested in getting as much food aid as possible", he said.

"But I would not say it is a large exaggeration".

At a press conference on Wednesday in Pyongyang, he said that although Pyongyang has made significant advances, there are still many challenges ahead when it comes to health and sanitation.

"Until recently, North Korea was not capable of producing enough food to meet even the most basic calorie requirement of its people", Lankov said.

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