05/05/2005, 00.00
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Church to the rescue of North Korean children

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
In North Korea, for every 1000 new-born children 14 die at birth, 21 within a year, and 32 within five.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – As Koreans today, May 5, celebrate the 83rd Children's Day, South Korean Catholics are urged to do something concrete for North Korean children.

Many southern parishes are raising awareness among the faithful about the extreme poverty and food scarcity North Korean children endure. They "need our attention and help".

Decades of natural, economic and political difficulties have caused greater food shortages, affecting above all children.

According to a health report recently published by the North Korean Population Research Institute, the death rate among North Koreans has nearly doubled from 5.5 per cent in 1993 to 9.1 per cent in 2002. This is proof that many people died in the mid-90s as a result of serious flood- and drought-induced food shortages.

If the situation is bad for adults, it is even worse for children. As many as 14 of every1000 new-born infants died of malnutrition soon after birth; 21 died before reaching one year, and 32 children died before the age of five. This is a death rate four times higher than that of South Korea.

According to the World Food Plan, food shortages in North Korea have reached a critical point—without food assistance from the international community food distribution to elementary school children might face difficulties beginning in June, and kindergarten and nursery children will face the same problem by the end of July.

The Catholic Church in Korea is trying to deal with the problem by asking ordinary South Koreans to help. Caritas Korea, which is under the Bishops' Conference of Korea, allocated US$ 2.5 million in 2004 alone.

The National Reconciliation Committee of Korean People of the archdiocese of Seoul has taken its own initiatives. It has set up an account with the URI Bank encouraging donations on behalf on North Korean children

In May, Koreans celebrate Children's Month and Family Month. All Korean Catholics are urged to think about children in North Korea and do something concrete to bring them spiritual and material assistance.

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