Hunger 'worsening' in North Korea

2011-09-27 16:00

Washington - Relief groups on Monday made a new plea to the United States to offer food assistance to North Korea, warning that hunger was worsening and could develop into a major crisis next year.

The US earlier this month gave flood relief to North Korea, with which it has tense relations, but it has held off from approving food shipments due to concerns that the communist regime will use the aid for political ends.

The five US aid groups which delivered the flood aid said they monitored distribution to civilians and were alarmed at what they saw in North Korea as heavy rains and winds had destroyed buildings, crops and roads.

"Health and food security, always fragile in North Korea, are deteriorating and people are vulnerable," Matt Ellingson of Christian relief group Samaritan's Purse said in a joint statement by the five organizations.

"Already hungry children have been pushed over the edge by continued food shortages and diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor hygiene," he said.

"Without immediate and direct intervention there is significant risk for a far greater crisis to unfold in the coming six to nine months," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans died in a famine in the 1990s.

The relief groups said they did not understand why President Barack Obama's administration has not given a response to their calls made months ago for a food aid program focused on women and children.

"Many innocent people are at risk today, and we know that food aid can save lives," said Jim White of Mercy Corps.

Modest contribution

The Obama administration has repeatedly said that no decision has been made on food aid. Robert King, the US special envoy for human rights on North Korea, visited in May and said the regime must ensure tight monitoring of aid.

Many members of the rival Republican Party adamantly oppose food aid to North Korea, charging that the aid would prop up Kim Jong-Il's regime as it prepares for a national celebration next year and diverts resources to its nuclear program.

The Republican-led House of Representatives voted in June to bar US food assistance to North Korea. But the Democratic-led Senate removed similar language as they moved ahead this month with an appropriations bill.

The Obama administration has opened talks with North Korea but has insisted that the communist regime needs to commit clearly to past agreements to give up its nuclear weapons and to improve relations with US-allied South Korea.

A senior administration official recently said that the United States was waiting for clearer signals from North Korea.

"The United States, along with other nations, has made a modest contribution to flood assistance. And I think it would be fair to say that we are still awaiting a clear signal from Pyongyang about what their response is to our overall proposals," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The US government said it granted $900 000 in flood relief. The private relief groups pooled together their own resources and said the cargo plane included more than $3m in supplies including oral rehydration salts, tarps and ready-to-eat foods.

The aid groups distributed food aid to North Korea in 2008 and 2009 until the regime abruptly expelled them.

  • Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-27 16:28

    I feel sad for the common North Korean citizen. Starving, knowing nothing about the true outside world, being fed Bullsh*t constantly by their government. If anyone needs an uprising to affect a change in control it's these people, yet they are too indoctrinated to know they need it.

      DarwinEvolution - 2011-09-27 17:05

      Show no remorse!!! Let them ask the government to feed them...if they dont get feed they'll start a civil war. Hopefully they’ll decide on a democratic state. I say let them's time to play hard ball...African countries and like are always criticizing The United States. Screw them ungrateful, arrogant people.

      PROSA - 2011-09-27 17:21

      you are 100% correct the USA will provide food to the world and africa and the next day they will turn and say how bad the USA is And avarage of 50 soldiers is still getting killed a month in Afghanistan and believe me here is no oil just awesome mountains and i think the USA is not here for the mountains

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-27 17:22

      they won't start a civil war, cause they know that the army will just slaughter them mercilessly if they so much as lift a finger at the orders of dear leader. And the rest of the world will find out very little about the whole deal, years later.

  • OMO - 2011-09-27 16:29

    Gotta love the midget with hi heels that runs NKorea. He has got money for WMD, but his people are starving. This is one dictator that should have been taken out years ago.

  • Dougalan - 2011-09-27 16:48

    The true face of Communism! Meanwhile free enterprise South Korea totally prospers. But amazingly, in SA we STILL have a Communist Party! Perhaps Jeremy Cronin and Blade Nzimande should emigrate to North Korea. How can people be so deluded, with such a massive history of failure of this useless ideology? But no, 'we will do it differently'. Yeah, right....

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-27 17:27

      The only FAIL visible from space:

  • PROSA - 2011-09-27 17:00

    and we are complaining about S.A

  • Sammy - 2011-09-27 21:38

    They can eat the atom bomb that they bankrupted the country for instead of begging the capitalists for aid.They give the finger with one hand and beg with the other.Desperate times call for desparate measures how about them also liberating themselves from the colonialist,sorry communist opressors,lets have an asian spring

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-27 23:12

      nono, Kil Jong Ill gives the finger while his people starve and asks for aid.

  • Gibbonater - 2011-09-28 09:01

    Why do they always run to the evil west especially the USA when on a begging mission. Why not ask Saudi Arabia, China, Venezuala and Cuba for aid. These are the so called peoples governments. Always beg from the west and then in an instance turn on them with vengeance.

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