ASIA/NORTH KOREA - Caritas Korea: "The political tension must not stop humanitarian aid in the North for millions of hungry people"

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - "Our hope is that the political tensions does not stop humanitarian aid in the North for millions of hungry people ", says to Fides Fr. Gerard Hammond, Maryknoll Missionary and Director of Programs for North Korea in Caritas Korea. The missionary, who has visited North Korea 30 times since the 90s, said that: "in this season, the crisis becomes more acute and aid is even more urgent". Caritas has brought global attention on the millions of people suffering in North Korea, while the world focuses on the challenges and potential changes, with the government of the new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In past days, Caritas Internationalis published an appeal in which it urges the international community "not to neglect millions of people suffering from hunger in the Asian country". Floods, harsh winter, poor agricultural infrastructure and rising food prices have left two thirds of the total population (a total of 24.5 million) without enough food. Last December, the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Michel Roy, held a meeting in Seoul to discuss the food crisis in North Korea and plan strategies for intervention. "Malnutrition has left children, pregnant women and elderly people so weak that, when a new crisis arrives, its impact is even more dangerous. The humanitarian imperative is that the people of North Korea receive aid and is not held hostage by geopolitics", said Roy. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) only 6% of families in the North have acceptable food consumption. "Caritas Korea - remarks Fr. Hammond to Fides - follows programs concerning humanitarian aid, food security, health care, referring to three main categories of most vulnerable people: women, children and the elderly". Fr. Hamond hopes that "the international community takes into account the humanitarian crisis in the North", and that "aid to those suffering from hunger is not politicized". A next Caritas mission to the North will be organized probably in spring 2012. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 05/01/2012)