09/21/2016, 15.33
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Catholics and Buddhists bring aid to rain-affected North

South Korea does not allow direct shipment of essential supplies, but the floods that hit the northern part of the peninsula continue to claim victims. Civil society groups, religious and international organisations are using alternative routes to help those suffering.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Private groups composed of Catholics and Buddhists "are bypassing the Korean border, through China, sending humanitarian aid to the North Korean population affected by devastating floods,” an anonymous Catholic source said.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the source, which is involved in dialogue between the two Koreas, said that, because of military provocations by Pyongyang, Seoul closed every direct channel. Without government permission, southern NGOs cannot provide assistance to the North.

The ban obviously does not affect international organisations, which yesterday began delivering food and other aid to tens of thousands of people left homeless due to heavy floods last month.

The floods have mainly affected the northern provinces on the border with China, which are among the poorest in the country, particularly the area near the Tumen River.

North Korea has reported 133 dead and almost 400 missing. Some 35,000 houses, as well as 9,000 schools and other public buildings have suffered damages. Some 68,000 people have been displaced, a number lower than the one estimated by the United Nations. Roads, bridges and railways have also been serious affected.

The World Food Programme has stepped in providing food for more than 140,000 people. However, the imminent arrival of winter is a source of great concern for the UN agency since the season is often accompanied by severe food shortages.

The situation is critical. For the UN, displaced people are in urgent need of shelter, clean water and sanitation, as well as the food.

In South Korea, civil society groups, both secular and religious, have not stood idly by. "We contacted groups in China who are giving us a hand,” the source told AsiaNews.

“They are issuing phoney invoices that allow us to send products to them, which they then take across the border. Of course, there is a great risk that these essential items could fall into the wrong hands. But what can we do? Certainly not stand by as people starve."

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