News / Asia

UN Humanitarian Chief in N. Korea to Gauge Food Crisis

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, center left, shakes hands with North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon on her arrival at Pyongyang airport, October 17, 2011.
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, center left, shakes hands with North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon on her arrival at Pyongyang airport, October 17, 2011.

United Nations' humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has arrived in North Korea on a mission to assess the communist country's chronic food shortages.

Amos arrived Monday in Pyongyang, where she said she plans to hold talks with officials on long-range plans for meeting the country's food needs.  

"I hope to see for myself exactly the food security situation. I'm particularly concerned over the reports that there's increasing malnutrition amongst children, and I'm very much looking forward to my two days in the field when I'll have an opportunity to see a number of UN sponsored projects," said Amos.

The world body estimates that six million North Koreans are in urgent need of food aid. It says world governments have contributed less than 30 percent of funding needed to end the food crisis.

Earlier this month, Amos attributed the funding shortage to Western concerns that food aid will be diverted to the North Korean military and not reach those most in need. She said monitoring has improved in the past year, however, with the North allowing random visits and the use of Korean-speaking staff for the first time.

The United States and the European Union both sent teams to assess North Korea's food needs earlier this year. The Europeans said they will send aid, but Washington still has not announced a decision.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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