By Chae Yun-hwan and Yi Wonju
SEOUL, May 16 (Yonhap) -- The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) voiced concerns Monday over the news of a COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea and said it stands ready to provide it with necessary support.
"UNICEF is concerned at the reported cases of COVID-19 in DPR Korea and is ready to provide support to the Government should it be requested," Shima Islam, a spokesperson for the organization, told Yonhap News Agency, using the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Last Thursday, North Korea made public its first COVID-19 cases after claiming to be coronavirus-free for over two years. Pyongyang has reported 50 deaths so far from what it formally describes as an "epidemic," with a total of 1.21 million people having shown fever symptoms nationwide.
Before the admission of the coronavirus outbreak, the reclusive North had refused to accept vaccines from the outside world.
As its leader Kim Jong-un has openly called for all-out measures to address the problem of a lack of medical supplies, keen attention is being paid to whether his regime will reverse its stance and accept international aid packages.
The South Korean government is also seeking to deliver relevant assistance to the North. If the North agrees to receive it, observers say, UNICEF can serve as a delivery channel, given its experience and networks in terms of shipping aid materials, in particular for young children and women in the impoverished country.
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