'Clear evidence of need' in N. Korea

UN official says North Korea children are stunted due to malnutrition

The UN's humanitarian chief, who wrapped up a three-day visit to North Korea this week, says the UN hopes to increase its humanitarian assistance to the country.

Much progress has been made compared with 20 years ago, but "significant humanitarian challenges" remain, Mark Lowcock, the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, said Wednesday at a news conference in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

Mark Lowcock, the United Nations aid chief, returned to Beijing from Pyongyang on Thursday, after looking into what is believed to be a precarious food situation in North Korea due in part to natural disasters.

Lowcock posted a video online outlining his observations after traveling to several areas in the southwest of the country.

"One of the things we've seen is very clear evidence of humanitarian need here", he said in the video, posted to his official Twitter account and the United Nations website. "Almost half the children in rural areas as well don't have access to clean water".

Lowcock said about 20 percent of children are stunted because of malnutrition, and about half the children in rural areas are drinking contaminated water.

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

"The core point is: there is a humanitarian need, we can meet it and we can tell people a convincing and persuasive story about how their money is used if they provide us with more funds", he said.

Tapan Mishra, UN Resident Coordinator in North Korea, appealed in the "2018 DPR Korea Needs and Priorities Plan" for countries to "not to let political considerations get in the way" of their decision to donate.

Lowcock on Wednesday met with the North s health minister Jang Jun Sang, Pyongyang s official KCNA news agency said without elaborating further.

One hospital 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".

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