North Korea flood relief stalls as Red Cross struggles to raise funds

Red Cross urges international donors to 'put politics aside and recognise the humanitarian crisis in the country'.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Nearly 70,000 people are estimated to have lost their homes in disastrous flooding in North Hamgyong province in August and September that claimed more than 130 lives.

The Red Cross is struggling to raise funds to aid flood-affected regions of North Korea after a disappointing response from the international community to its emergency appeal, a spokesman said on Saturday.

At least 133 people have died in North Korea and some 600,000 people have been affected by flooding caused by heavy rain in late August and early September.

Concerns are growing about the health and welfare of those affected as winter sets in.

Red Cross has only raised 25 percent of the $15.38 million it sought in an emergency appeal aimed at helping more than 330,000 people needing humanitarian assistance over the next 12 months.

International donors need to "put politics aside and recognise this is a humanitarian tragedy for thousands of people," Patrick Fuller, communications manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told reporters in Beijing after returning from North Korea.

Aid agencies say raising money for humanitarian assistance in North Korea has become an increasingly difficult task given the global condemnation of its nuclear weapons programme. [AFP]

Donors' political concerns about the North Korean government have hampered efforts to raise funds, Fuller said, even though the money donated to the Red Cross is spent by the organisation, without passing through the government.

In March, the 15-member U.N. Security Council imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea following its fourth nuclear test in January.

"We can really make progress with the funding we have but it's not nearly enough. It's not nearly enough to support the operation over the coming months," Fuller said.

The North Korean government has pledged to build 20,000 houses before tough winter conditions set in.

But international sanctions mean the Red Cross has to provide much of the material needed for construction.

"It's not a situation where people can continue to live under plastic sheeting," he said.


TRTWorld and agencies