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UN appeals for $98 million to meet North Korea critical humanitarian needs

The United Nations is urgently appealing for $98 million to meet critical humanitarian needs in North Korea for the rest of 2013.

The U.N. said it has received only $52 million of the $150 million it appealed for to support the provision of food and agricultural materials, health and nutrition programs and water and sanitation improvements.

"Without sustained humanitarian support, the gains made the past 10 years in improving food security and the overall health and nutrition of the most vulnerable ... could be quickly reversed," U.N. Resident Coordinator in North Korea Ghulam Isaczai said in a statement Thursday.

Isaczai said while the overall humanitarian situation has improved slightly over the last 12 months, around 2.4 million very vulnerable people need regular food assistance, and external assistance is vital.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on prospective donors to respond to the appeal. The U.N. chief "stresses that humanitarian assistance should not be linked to political or security considerations," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

"The lifesaving operations of the United Nations in the country remain drastically underfunded," Nesirky said. "The lives of many people are at stake, including children who are vulnerable to lasting suffering if they do not receive aid."

Earlier this month, South Korea approved $6 million in government aid for vaccines, medical care and food for North Korean children, the first such humanitarian aid for Pyongyang since South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office in February.

Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, welcomes the decision and 'hopes this move will inspire other traditional and potential donors to follow suit," Nesirky said.