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NZ to support UNICEF work in North Korea

NZ to support UNICEF work in North Korea

New Zealand is providing NZ$540,000 to the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, for its programme in North Korea, says Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

The grant follows a $385,000 contribution earlier this year for the World Food Programme's operations in North Korea. Both pledges were made prior to the recent train explosion that killed over 160 people and injured 1300.

UNICEF provides humanitarian assistance in such areas as health and basic education to the most vulnerable groups in North Korea. It is appealing for around US$12.8 million for its 2004 programme, but has to date received less than half of this. Of the $7.5 million shortfall in funds, $1.7 million covers what UNICEF regards as the most urgent priority needs.

"Conditions continue to be extremely grim in North Korea," Mr Goff said.

"International organisations such as UNICEF and other donor agencies help to meet some of the most critical health, food and other basic needs of the population. Without the involvement of the international community the people of North Korea would suffer even more.

"Notwithstanding the serious concerns New Zealand shares with the international community over North Korea's nuclear fuel programme, it is important that we play our part in providing badly-needed humanitarian assistance to help alleviate the suffering of the children of North Korea."

Mr Goff said New Zealand's funding would be directed at the most urgent needs, such as maternity medical equipment and essential drugs for health centres.

"North Korea faces some critical shortages in these two areas. The number of maternal deaths has doubled since 1990 and health is one area where New Zealand can help UNICEF make a worthwhile contribution," Mr Goff said.

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