06/26/2009, 00.00
KOREA
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World Food Program: humanitarian crisis in North Korea

Among the areas most affected are rural areas of the north. The WFP projects cover for only 15% of the real needs of the population. Pyongyang has banned aid from the United States. Caritas Korea among the few organizations that has never stopped flow of aid to the North.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In North Korea there is a serious humanitarian crisis that is affecting the remote rural areas in the north of the country. Paul Risley, Asia spokesman for the World Food Program (WFP), reports that the crisis has been worsened by the Pyongyang decision to shut down aid from the United States.

Currently, the WFP in North Korea can only operate at 15% capacity, providing food to less than 1.5 million people out of more than 6.2 million who need aid to survive. "These are very vulnerable people," Paul Risley told Radio Free Asia. Among the most affected are the "children in schools, orphanages and those living in more remote villages," along with "women and the elderly."

Several times in the past North Korea has experienced severe food crises, which affected millions of people. The economy of the country - and agriculture in particular - has collapsed and the dictatorship is investing billions of dollars in weapons, leaving the people to starve. Several international humanitarian organizations involved in aid programs, accuse the regime of  taking the food destined for the people, delivering it instead to the military leadership and the leadership of the Communist Party in power.

In October 2008 the Pyongyang regime also prevented the WFP from investigating the nutrition levels of the North Koreans. According to experts, the investigation was "crucial" in order to understand how serious the food emergency was in North Korea.

Among the few institutions that still manage to provide aid and support to the North Korean population is Caritas Korea. Despite the political and military tensions between the two Koreas, the Catholic Association has never stopped its program of assistance to the North.

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