(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES paras 3-5 with delivery of donation)
SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Tuesday sent a pledged donation of US$8 million to U.N. agencies to support their efforts to provide assistance to North Korean women and children in need, the unification ministry said.
Last week, the Seoul government endorsed the donation plan for the World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) for their projects to support the nutrition of children and pregnant women in North Korea and address their health problems.
Of the total, $4.5 million was allocated to the WFP and the remainder to UNICEF.
The money was remitted to the agencies Tuesday afternoon, according to the unification ministry.
A ministry official said earlier in the day that it will take more time before the money will be actually spent on the agencies' projects in North Korea, adding that they are working on reducing the time before its implementation in consideration of the urgent need of many North Korean people.
This marks the first humanitarian assistance to be provided to North Korea through international agencies by the Moon Jae-in government since its inauguration in 2017.
Concerns are growing that North Korea is facing worsening food shortages, apparently affected by crushing global sanctions and years of unfavorable weather conditions.
The WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported, based on a visit to North Korea, that the country's crop output last year hit the lowest level since 2008, adding that an estimated 10 million people, about 40 percent of the population, are in urgent need of food.
South Korea is drawing up a separate plan to send food aid to North Korea through international agencies.
(News Focus) Seoul's push for individual tours to North meaningful but many hurdles ahead: experts
Surging U.S.-Iran tensions feared to dilute U.S. focus on N.K. nuke talks
Biegun expected to seek breakthrough in N.K. talks ahead of year-end deadline
Tensions rise to perilous point in U.S.-NK nuke diplomacy
Shorter firing interval indicates N.K.'s super-large rocket launcher almost ready for operation: experts