Sun, Aug 26, 2007 - Page 5 News List

UN to seek emergency aid for N Korea

UNUSUAL MOVE Pyongyang, usually reluctant to acknowledge internal problems, has openly sought help after floods killed 221 people and affected 400,000 this month


A UN appeal to be launched next week to help about 400,000 North Koreans affected by serious floods will seek between US$15 million and US$20 million, a senior UN official said.

Assistant Secretary-General Margareta Wahlstrom, the deputy emergency relief coordinator, said the appeal will only focus on immediate emergency needs -- food, medical care, water and sanitation.

"Anything beyond that will be dealt with later on," she said on Friday.

The exact amount of the UN appeal is still being determined, Wahlstrom said.

"I think the estimate is somewhere between US$15 million and US$20 million," she said.

A week of severe rainstorms -- the heaviest rainfall in 40 years -- caused floods earlier this month that destroyed more than 11 percent of North Korea's crops and left 221 people dead.

Jo Yong Nam, head of the North's recovery efforts, said the flood damage when calculated in financial terms was 10 times worse than floods last year, a pro-North Korean paper in Japan reported on Thursday.

Wahlstrom said the UN, International Red Cross and donors have visited all affected areas, mainly in the east and southeast of the country.

"The agreement now is that about 400,000 people are affected in 92 countries," she told reporters.

Wahlstrom said the waters are receding now and people who took shelter in public buildings are waiting to see if their homes are livable or destroyed.

The International Red Cross launched an appeal for almost US$6 million for North Korea last Monday, she said.

"They are slowly getting a response to that," Wahlstrom said. "We hope that that will pick up."

South Korea delivered the first batch of a US$7.5 million emergency aid package to North Korea on Thursday including instant noodles, drinking water, blankets and medicine. It was sent to the North Korean border city of Kaesong on 40 25-tonne trucks, the Unification Ministry said, adding that the delivery will be completed by the end of the month.

The impoverished North has been widely publicizing the damage while openly seeking outside help -- an unusual move as Pyongyang is often reluctant to acknowledge any internal problems.

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