Don't Forget North Korea's Needs, Says Caritas

HONG KONG, MAY 4, 2005 ( Caritas-Hong Kong says that $2.5 million is required over the next 12 months to assist the people of North Korea, 30% of whom could face starvation, according to U.N. statistics.

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In a new report, the Catholic aid organization cited an urgent need for assistance to North Korea in the areas of food, agriculture, development and professional formation. Caritas has been engaged in humanitarian projects in the country for 15 years.

On Tuesday, Vatican Radio reported that from 1993 to 1998, North Korea’s gross national product fell from $991 million to $457 million, while life expectancy fell from 73.2 to 66.8 years.

The nation’s infant mortality rate rose to 22% from 14% for every 1,000 births, while the figure soared to 48% from 27% for children younger than 5, according to Vatican Radio.

The U.N. World Food Program warned that more than 6.5 million people — out of a population of 22 million — are in danger of dying of starvation.

Caritas has appealed to states worldwide and to international organizations not to abandon North Korea to its fate.

Its report insisted: «Humanitarian work must be independent of all discussions of a political character.»

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