Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Envoy warns of growing food crisis in North Korea

DESPERATE TIMES The UN special rapporteur on human rights in the North said Pyongyang's missile test has made the food aid issue more difficult


A UN envoy on Monday warned of the dangers posed by sharply reduced food aid shipments to North Korea as a result of its missile and nuclear tests given that the country still faces a "critical shortage."

Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, also urged Pyongyang to abide by its human rights obligations and, specifically, to stop punishing North Korean refugees repatriated by neighboring asylum countries.

"There is a critical food shortage also compounded by disastrous floods in July and August," he told a news conference at the UN, adding that the crisis was further complicated by the North Korean missile and nuclear tests which triggered sanctions by the UN Security Council.

He described Pyongyang's missile tests last July and its first nuclear test on Oct. 9 as "a serious waste" of resources.

"The resources spent on arms would have been better spent satisfying the food security" of North Koreans, Muntarbhorn said.

He appealed to food donors to resume their aid on the basis of "no access, no food," meaning that the aid would be conditional on guaranteed access to North Korean target groups such as women and children, and accountability.

He recalled that the UN World Food Program (WFP) had its wings clipped last year when Pyongyang ordered it to change its emergency relief program to a development scheme.

Last month, WFP said it had received just 8 percent of the US$102 million it needs to provide 150,000 tonnes of food over the next two years.

Experts believe around 1 million North Koreans died in the 1990s because of food shortages.

Muntarbhorn said the human rights situation in the North was "grim," particularly for special groups such as the disabled, women, children and the elderly.

In a report released last Friday, he accused the North's authorities of practicing "merciless discrimination against handicapped persons by setting up collectivecamps for them where they are designated according to their physical deformity or disability." The report also said women were being subjected "human trafficking and sexual exploitation."

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