Caritas Continues Food Aid for Children of North Korea

Organization Marks 10 Years of Activity There

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ROME, MARCH 8, 2005 ( North Korea’s humanitarian emergency has been aggravated by an energy crisis, say Caritas officials.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Duncan MacLaren, who recently toured the country, said: «In the five years since my last visit, there have been some positive changes. There is movement in the economy after the July 2002 reforms, there is more visible trading and bikes on the road.»

«However, there are also growing gaps between the haves and the have-nots. While it was satisfying to note the positive impact of aid from Caritas, it was also obvious that there are still many needs,» he added.

Caritas, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations, has been working in North Korea for 10 years.

In that communist country, «Caritas assists with food aid to hundreds of thousands of children, particularly orphans and pregnant and nursing women» and «provides inputs to cooperative farms to increase production and supports projects in the health sector,» reported the organization.

Accompanying MacLaren on his visit was Kathi Zellweger, of Caritas Hong Kong, which oversees the Caritas Internationalis program in North Korea.

Zellweger said that one of the main problems was the energy crisis. «This has substantial impact on industrial output, harvests and the daily lives of the people struggling to survive in a climate that is often harsh,» she said.

«While in Hamhung, we experienced snowfalls of 30 centimeters and witnessed people carrying brushwood for fuel and putting plastic sheeting in the windows to protect them from the cold,» she added.

In 2004 Caritas launched an appeal for $2.5 million to finance its aid programs in North Korea. A similar appeal will be launched in April.

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