U.N. aid to North Korea carefully monitored, UNICEF chief says

The head of the United Nations’ Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, said the agency is carefully monitoring the aid that it is supplying to North Korea.

UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore meets with South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (R) on Monday. Photo by Yonhap

Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, said in Seoul humanitarian assistance in North Korea is being tracked such that not even a penny is being misallocated, Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday.

Fore’s visit to South Korea comes at a time when experts say North Korea crops have been damaged due to worsening drought.

The South has offered food aid, which the North has rejected. Through UNICEF, Seoul is contributing $3.5 million of aid to go toward helping North Korean “vulnerable groups,” including children and pregnant women, according to Yonhap.

In North Korea, UNICEF officers go from door-to-door to deliver equipment and vaccines and supply medication and food, Fore said, adding monitoring takes place at a small scale.

Fore also said UNICEF’s history with South Korea dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War, when the agency provided aid amid widespread poverty in the country. South Korea’s evolution from aid recipient to donor means the country is an extremely important UNICEF partner, Fore said.

The UNICEF chief also met with South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang, Newsis reported.

Moon pledged to help North Korean children in cooperation with the U.N. agency. South Korea as a former recipient of aid has a responsibility to “repay” its debts, the South Korean lawmaker said.

Fore told Moon a shortage of vaccines, cures for malnutrition and other medical needs should be addressed in North Korea — where the regime has allocated funds toward weapons development rather than addressing a pending humanitarian crisis within its borders.

Earlier in August international agency GEOGLAM, the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative, said extreme weather has hurt North Korea corn crops and water reservoirs remain at lower levels than a year ago.

ByElizabeth Shim