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'Clear evidence of need' in N Korea: UN aid chief

AFP  |  Seoul 

The United Nations' humanitarian chief today said he had seen "clear evidence" of need in -- where one fifth of children are malnourished -- during a rare trip.

Mark Lowcock's visit to the impoverished, isolated country this week is the first such trip by a UN under since 2011.

"More than half of children in rural areas... have no clean water," he said in a video posted on "Something like 20 per cent of the children in the country have "

he visited had 140 patients with tuberculosis but had drugs for only 40 of them, Lowcock added, saying: "There's a very clear humanitarian need."

About 10.6 million people among the country's 25 million population need humanitarian assistance, the UN said, also noting "disparities" in access to basic between rural and urban areas.

Mortality rates for under-fives are 20 per cent higher in the countryside than in towns, it said, adding a shortage of funding had forced it to stop support to kindergartens since November 2017.

The UN earlier this year called for USD 111 million in aid to help improve nutrition, health and sanitation in the North but the programme remains 90 per cent underfunded.

The North has a fragile economy and has long struggled to feed its people, and is under multiple layers of sanctions over a series of nuclear and missile tests staged in violation of UN resolutions.

NGOs have told AFP that the enforcement of sanctions has hampered their operations. The has improved in recent years, partly due to reforms in agriculture and increasing trade at state-sanctioned private markets, but the nation remains vulnerable to natural disasters while medical services remain poor in many regions.

Lowcock today met with the North's Jang Jun Sang, Pyongyang's official agency said without elaborating further.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, July 11 2018. 15:30 IST