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UN Emergency Aid Drops for N. Korea

FILE - Equipment is used to offload Russian food aid to North Korea at Nampho, Dec. 23, 2014.

The United Nations says it will lower emergency relief aid to North Korea this year.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has allocated about $100 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to boost relief work in 12 countries, including North Korea.

But only about $2 million will be given to the communist country for the first half of this year, a 70 percent plunge from the beginning of last year.

The decrease comes as the need for emergency assistance has risen sharply in Syria and surrounding countries.

But in an email response to the VOA Korean service, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Chief Spokesperson Amanda Pitt wrote that each allocation is made independently of one another.

“[The] humanitarian teams are selected to receive under-funded grants based on the CERF secretariat’s funding and vulnerability analysis, the U.N. agencies’ recommendations, and consultations with humanitarian experts in countries with long-standing and under-funded humanitarian operations,” Pitt elaborated.

Much of CERF the initial 2015 emergency funding will go to countries affected by the Syria crisis. The highest single allocation will go to Syria at $30 million, and the remainder will go to humanitarian agencies in the neighboring countries.

Another $14 million will support aid operations in three countries in the Great Lakes Region in Africa, where the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is having ripple effects.

The $2 million for North Korea is only a fraction of the overall foreign aid received by the communist country. Last year, the U.N. and member nations provided $51 million in aid, mostly for humanitarian food and health projects.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

A previous version of this story incorrectly inferred that CERF funding levels for North Korea are linked to spending in other areas of the world. VOA apologizes for this error.

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    Jee Abbey Lee

    Jee Abbey Lee is a veteran broadcast journalist with more than 10 years of experience in TV, radio, and the web. She serves as Voice of America's social media correspondent and is an expert of millennial lifestyle. 

    Lee received her graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to joining VOA, she worked at the Seoul bureau of CNN Travel and served as the chief Bank of Korea correspondent for Arirang TV.