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Friday, March 24, 2017
Caritas celebrates ten years in North Korea
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¬†On his second visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Caritas Internationalis Secretary General, Duncan MacLaren, said that, after ten years activity in the country, the needs were still great. "In the five years since my last visit, there have been some positive changes ≠ there is movement in the economy after the July 2002 reforms, there is more visible trading and more bikes on the road, for example. However, there are also growing gaps between the haves and have nots. While it was satisfying to note the positive impact of aid from Caritas, it was also obvious that there were still many needs." Mr MacLaren was accompanied by Kathi Zellweger of Caritas Hong Kong. Ms Zellweger, who has visited the DPRK many times since 1995, is in charge of the Caritas Internationalis programme in the country. They visited officials of their main partner, the Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee (FDRC), both at national and local level, and visited projects in Hamgyong Province on the east coast. Caritas assists with food aid to hundreds of thousands of children, particularly orphans and pregnant and nursing women, provides inputs to cooperative farms to increase production and supports projects in the health sector. Ms Zellweger said that one of the main problems was the energy crisis. "This has a substantial impact on industrial output, harvests and the daily lives of the people struggling to survive in a climate that is often harsh. While in Hamhung, we experienced snowfalls of 30cms and witnessed people carrying brushwood for fuel and putting plastic sheeting in the windows to protect them from the cold." Mr MacLaren continued: "While the 2004 harvest was the best in ten years, there was still a shortfall making 6.5 million people vulnerable and in need of food assistance. I was horrified at the state of the equipment in hospitals that would be better off in a medical museum. In one county hospital serving 60,000 people, the only drugs were the ones supplied by Caritas. I was impressed by the attempts of the doctors to serve their patients despite their outdated equipment. All this adds up to the need to continue the Caritas programme which also serves to engage the DPRK with the outside world. "The Caritas programme is a good example of humanitarian engagement devoid of political manipulation. I am grateful to the 30 members of the Caritas Confederation and the many other organisations, Catholic, ecumenical and secular, who contribute funds to the programme and will be encouraging more to become involved." Source: Caritas
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