U.N. to Begin Food Aid to North Korean Flood Victims

The U.N. will begin emergency food aid to North Korean flood victims, the organization's food agency announced Tuesday, an indication of the desperation of the regime for allowing the international assistance that is accompanied by strict monitoring.

The World Food Program said in a statement issued from Pyongyang that it will distribute food to 215,000 affected people over the next three months.

"The flooding in the (North) is serious," Tony Banbury, WFP's regional director for Asia, said in the statement. "WFP has worked out satisfactory arrangements with the government so that we can provide emergency food aid to hundreds of thousands of people who need our help."

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The heaviest rains in 40 years in the North killed at least 221 people while completely or partially destroying almost 60,000 homes, public buildings and up to 40 percent of the country's health facilities and supplies, according to international aid groups operating in North Korea.

The WFP is already at the center of international efforts to help fight hunger in the North, which is unable to provide for its own people without outside aid.

Under a previous assistance program, the WFP aimed to feed 1.9 million people but shortfalls due to a lack of international donations meant it could only provide for 700,000 so far.

All aid given by the U.N. is independently monitored to insure those in need are getting the food donated from countries around the world. The North has previously bristled at such intrusions in the secretive country and scaled back the outside assistance it allows.

For the new emergency aid starting Tuesday, the WFP said the North Korean government "has indicated its acceptance of WFP's conditions allowing for ongoing assessments and visits by WFP staff" of distribution in affected areas.

Some 5,700 tons of food already in the country will be given to flood victims, with an additional 9,675 tons required for the three-month plan, the agency said.

"We hope the international community will respond to this serious crisis and support the emergency food needs of North Korean civilians suffering from these floods," Banbury said.

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