Seoul: Humanitarian agencies are warning of a “second disaster” in flood-hit North Korea with tens of thousands – many of them children – still homeless as the region’s bitter winter approaches.
Nearly 70,000 people are estimated to have lost their homes in disastrous flooding in North Hamgyong province in August and September that claimed more than 130 lives.
In a joint statement yesterday, Save the Children and Unicef warned that flood-hit areas would begin to see sub-zero temperatures from the end of October as the “long and bitter” winter sets in.
“Thousands of children are suffering and the impending winter will trigger a second disaster if we do not increase assistance for children and families,” said Unicef’s country head in North Korea, Oyunsaihan Dendevnorov said.
“They have lost everything: clean water, food, medicine and shelter. Without more attention, the suffering of children will only get worse.”
The floods along the Tumen River, which partially marks the border with China and Russia, tore through villages, washing away buildings and leaving hundreds of thousands in urgent need of food and shelter.
Paolo Fattori, Save the Children’s Programme Director in North Korea, urged donors to come through with funds before winter arrives.
“The situation right now is urgent and on an enormous scale not seen here in decades. That’s why we need the international community to step up,” Fattori said.
The agencies are calling for US$28.2mil (RM116.8mil) in funding for immediate and long-term assistance, including repairing broken water systems and providing daily necessities like food, hygiene kits and temporary shelter.
Aid agencies say raising money for humanitarian assistance in North Korea has become an increasingly difficult task given the global condemnation of its nuclear weapons programme.
Some donors have questioned how the North can afford to develop and test nuclear weapons, but still need financial help to alleviate the suffering of flood victims. — AFP
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