Tuesday, July 05, 2011

EU to bring food into North Korea

The European Commission has negotiated with North Korea to gain special access into the country to distribute food aid. North Korea traditionally blocks all food aid entering into the country. They are now forced to open up due to mass starvation caused by a combination of flooding, disease and a harsh winter. 10 million Euros worth of food will be purchased by the World Food Programme and Save the Children.

From the Guardian, writer Maev Kennedy relays what the EU has learned on conditions within North Korea.

"It is of course outrageous that year after year the North Korean government has been starving its own people while funding programmes that are not to the benefit of the people and certainly not for the benefit of mankind – but that is no excuse for closing our eyes and closing our hearts when people are in desperate need," Kristalina Georgieva, EU commissioner for international co-operation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, said. "My own team came back and told me that the need is very real and acute. If we are to act, we must act now."

North Korean government rations, believed to be keeping two-thirds of the population alive, have been steadily reducing, down from 400g per person per day in April to 150g in June – the equivalent of a small bowl of rice.

Georgieva sent observers who were given unusual permission to visit hospitals and clinics, kindergartens and nurseries, markets and farms, and the state food distribution centres. They reported widespread hunger, near-empty markets and warehouses, and many people being treated in hospital after eating grass.

"Among the most saddening stories were of starving children begging in the market place to people who had absolutely nothing to give them. We cannot allow that to happen if we are in a position to help," she said.

Georgieva has been in discussion with the World Food Programme, which is using the offer of European money as a lever to increase the number of international staff in the country monitoring food distribution, and to permit up to 400 visits a month, including members of her own team.

"This is a targeted, one-off response. We will be monitoring from port to hospital. I have asked that all the food from Europe be not bought at the same time: any sign of food not getting through, or being diverted away from the people we want to help, and it stops there, we give no more," Georgieva said.

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