(ATTN: ADDS ministry official's comments in paras 6-9)
SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry said Tuesday that it is considering making an additional donation to global aid agencies to help North Korean people facing health and malnutrition problems.
In a report to lawmakers, the ministry said that donations could be made to such agencies as the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization for their assistance projects in the impoverished North.
North Korea has been faced with worsening food shortages apparently caused by crushing global sanctions and years of unfavorable weather conditions.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization earlier 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.
They estimated the North will require 1.36 million tons of grain this year to cover its food shortfall.
Earlier this month, South Korea donated US$8 million to the WFP and UNICEF to help their work in the North. Separately, the government also announced last week it will send 50,000 tons of rice to the North via the WFP.
A ministry official told reporters that details on when and how the rice will be delivered to North Korea will be discussed with the WFP once necessary internal administrative steps are completed, including the approval of money needed to secure the rice.
The official added that the WFP will take care of the issue of possible sanctions exemptions needed to deliver the rice to the North as the agency is in charge of transporting the aid and monitoring its distribution.
It marks the first time for South Korea to provide rice to North Korea since 2010, when it sent 5,000 tons to support its efforts to recover from flood damage. It will also be the first time Seoul has sent locally harvested rice to the North through an international agency.
Meanwhile, the WFP said in a report recently posted on its website that it needs an additional $20 million to carry out its food provision plans for North Korea in 2019.
Sanctions imposed on North Korea, however, have an "unintended" impact on the distribution of food to North Koreans in need, it said. It added that the sanctions are also causing disruption in securing the necessary funds due to restrictions on banking channels.
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