UN says North Korea aid faces 'significant underfunding'

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2015 10:08 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A new United Nations report says humanitarian aid for North Korea faces "significant underfunding" while about 70 percent of the population faces food insecurity, and it says recent U.S. sanctions forced U.N. agencies to suspend some programs and operations last year.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos on Wednesday tweeted the report on the poor but nuclear-armed country.

The report acknowledges the sharp restrictions that North Korea's government imposes on aid operations, saying the ability of U.N. agencies to freely access communities and obtain consistent data "is still out of reach." The country is the most closed-off in the world and rejects criticism of its bleak human rights record.

The U.N. is asking the international community for $111 million for North Korea operations in 2015, its lowest such funding appeal since at least 2009. It calls the scale of need for the country's 24 million people "of grave concern."

The report acknowledges that aid delivery to North Korea is politically sensitive but says the government in the past couple of years is more openly recognizing its needs.

The U.S. in 2013 sanctioned North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank, the country's main foreign exchange bank. The sanctions are meant to hurt the country's nuclear weapons and missile programs, which North Korea pursues in defiance of multiple U.N. sanctions as well.

The U.S. sanctions "led to significant issues and delays in transferring funding into DPRK throughout 2014," the U.N. report says, referring to the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

That in turn caused "multiple operational obstacles," the report said. In one example, the World Food Program last year cut the number of people it targeted with aid from 2.4 million to 1.8 million.

More than a quarter of children under the age of 5 face chronic malnutrition, the report says.

The U.N. says the sanctions and other factors such as weak infrastructure "all contribute to an unstable economy that could provoke potential humanitarian crises."