UN official says N. Korea needs food, medicine, clean water

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United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock arrived in Pyongyang on Monday and met with Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's nominal head of state and president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, earlier in the day, according to the North's state media.

The UN humanitarian affairs chief has said North Korea made progress against undernourishment since UN's last visit to Pyongyang in 2011, but there was "still too much suffering".

North Korea has made "lots of progress" in providing food and medical services to its people in recent years but the impoverished state still has a long, tough road ahead, the United Nations humanitarian chief said today.

"More than half the children in rural areas, including the places we've been, have no clean water, contaminated water sources".

"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.

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

And while access for humanitarian workers was improving, he noted that funding was falling short.

The UN estimates that nearly half of the North Korean population - around 10-point-6 million people out of 25 million - need humanitarian assistance, especially in the countryside. "My focus is on the humanitarian issues and the core humanitarian issues are around malnutrition, better water and sanitation, and more life-saving drugs and other medical supplies in hospitals like the ones I visited".

Although humanitarian supplies or operations are exempt under U.N. Security Council resolutions, U.N. officials have warned that global sanctions over North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are exacerbating humanitarian problems by slowing aid deliveries.

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.