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UNICEF calls for urgency in helping N. Korean children

All Headlines 08:32 September 21, 2017

SEOUL, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday called for urgency in helping North Korean children, saying that supporting them is not related to politics.

Karin Hulshof, regional director for East Asia and the Pacific at UNICEF, said that North Korean children under the age of 5 are at special danger due to chronic malnutrition and an inadequate health care system.

"The children of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have long been invisible to much of the world, but the challenges they face are all too real -- and the need to reach them is urgent," Hulshof said in a statement, referring to North Korea.

He said that UNICEF has been reaching out to children in need around the world "without regard to politics."

"Children are children. They do not have politics. And they do not deserve to suffer for situations entirely beyond their control. The children of DPRK are no exception," he said.

The statement came as South Korea is set to hold an interagency meeting Thursday to decide whether to offer US$8 million in aid to North Korea via international organizations.

If approved, Seoul plans to provide $3.5 million to a project on nutrition and vaccine provisions by UNICEF. The remainder is expected to support a nutrition program run by the World Food Program (WFP).

UNICEF's call came amid concerns that Seoul's aid plan may compromise international efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

The U.N. agency said that about 200,000 children in the North are affected by acute malnutrition, heightening their risk of death and increasing rates of stunting.

It added that around 350,000 children under the age of five remain unvaccinated against life-threatening diseases.

"They need that support more than ever," Hulshof said.

In this file photo provided by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 2007, a North Korean infant is vaccinated against measles. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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