North Korea: children starve while politicans argue

 The political crisis in North Korea has left a shortfall in desperately needed humanitarian aid for North Korea. Aid has dried up to the country because of the difficulty in fundraising following the escalating crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Kathi Zellweger heads the Caritas Internationalis emergency relief programme for North Korea. She says that on her last visit to the country in March that malnutrition was widespread, especially among children. "Caritas have calculated that it costs just $5.50 to feed a child in North Korea for a month. Yet 42 percent of children in the country are still chronically malnourished. When you visit hospitals there is hardly any medicine. The equipment is outdated. Doctors struggle to treat patients with such little resources. "North Korea is a forgotten country. The news is always on the military crisis. The tensions remain very high and that can only spell more bad news for the people of North Korea. We forget that there are 22 million ordinary people there who have no voice to make their plight known to the world and who have to fend for themselves." The World Food Programme says that North Korea needs a minimum of five million tonnes of food aid, and the shortfall is about a million tonnes. Zellweger says: "The shortfall in food aid means that the food crisis is not over and the gains that we have made could be lost. It is difficult to say if the next harvest will be good or bad, but even if it is good there will be a food shortages. The east coast is the worst affected, especially the industrial workers. They don't have access to land, so most survive on government rations. "Malnutrition rates could rise even higher. The ordinary people of North Korea should not be expected to suffer as a result of the political tensions. Only when people see the starving images do they give, and by then it is often too late. international donors must come up with the necessary funding now so that we don't have another food and health crisis." Caritas Internationalis has launched an appeal for $2.67 million dollars. Caritas provides food aid for 600,000 people in North Korea. Caritas also assists with basic medical equipment and supplies to regional hospitals. Caritas is also working to reform the agricultural sector by investing in farm equipment. Caritas supports 8000 vulnerable children, mostly without parents. Caritas Internationalis is the worldwide network of Catholic aid agencies. CAFOD is a member of Caritas Internationalis. Kathi Zellweger has been working in North Korea since 1995. She is the Director of International Cooperation for Caritas Hong Kong. She is currently visiting London.

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