UN aid chief says, "Clear evidence of humanitarian need" in North Korea

The problem is the backwardness of the country's agriculture system

There is "very clear evidence of humanitarian need" in North Korea, the top United Nations aid official has said during the first visit of its kind to the isolated country since 2011.

Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, speaks at a press briefing in Pyongyang, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), on July 11, 2018.

U.N. Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock arrived in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Monday.

In a video posted on his Twitter account, Lowcock said, "One of the things we've seen is very clear evidence of humanitarian need here".

Almost 30 percent of the country's children were stunted from malnutrition in 2011 but the number has fallen to 20 percent now, Lowcock said, admitting however even the current figure is "still a higher number".

"They are keen to work with humanitarian agencies and are open to additional humanitarian assistance, and are also keen to deal with humanitarian issues separately from political dynamics", Lowcock said.

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"Too much of the water is contaminated, which is a cause of disease and threatens the development of too many children", he said, according to the transcript.

Lowcock and his party also met the North Korean Minister of Public Health, Jang Jun-sang, at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang, reports Efe news.

While visiting a hospital, he said there were 140 tuberculosis patients but only enough drugs to treat 40 of them.

The North has a fragile economy and has long struggled to feed its people, and is under multiple layers of UN Security Council sanctions over a series of nuclear and missile tests staged in violation of UN resolutions.

The UN estimates that nearly half of the North Korean population - around 10-point-6 million people out of 25 million - need humanitarian assistance, especially in the countryside.

This trip to North Korea is aimed at meeting with the regime's officials, humanitarian workers and citizens who receive humanitarian aid to better understand the current situation in North Korea.

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