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UNICEF: North Korean Children Remain at Risk - 2004-03-17

The head of the U.N. Children's Fund says thousands of North Korean children face early and preventable deaths, despite marked improvements in child welfare in the Stalinist state.

Carol Bellamy, who visited North Korea for three days earlier this month, told reporters Wednesday in Seoul that there has been great progress in North Korean child welfare since her last visit in 1997.

She said 80 percent of North Korean children have been vaccinated for childhood diseases, and Pyongyang has opened more of the country to U.N. relief efforts.

But Ms. Bellamy said 70,000 North Korean children remain at risk of dying from malnutrition due to the country's failed economy and outdated infrastructure. She also said North Korea lacks enough electricity to heat schools and provide clean water to its people.

Ms. Bellamy said she met with North Korean parliamentary leader Kim Young Sam and other government officials during her trip.

Some information for this report provided by AP.