“The escalation of the food crisis situation in North Korea has prompted me to re-iterate my call of July 11 for the Australian government to send food aid to North Korea NOW.
From the reports coming out of the DPRK from various agencies it is clear this is a full-blown crisis. UNICEF director Carol Bellamy reported on August 9, hours after leaving North Korea, that 800,000 children, or 38% of children under the age of five are suffering malnutrition, and of these, 80,000 are severely malnourished and in danger of dying from starvation or disease.
People are dying - Humanitarian needs can’t wait. Hubertus Rueffer of the German aid organisation Deutsche Welthungerhilfe reported on August 6 that during his recent three week tour of North Korea he saw, ‘pictures that were not to be seen since Ethiopia’
Dramatically compounding the problem is the disastrous confirmation by the World Food Program that most of the current crop has been lost due to drought, including 70% of the maize crop. Hillary Mackenzi of the WFP reports that this has resulted in a loss of 1.5 million tonnes of cereals, adding to the more than 1 million tonnes of grain North Korea was already short.
There are 24 million North Koreans at immediate risk due to this crisis. This is purely a humanitarian crisis, and should be responded to accordingly, immediately and adequately.
The government should direct AusAID to secure Australian food for immediate shipment to North Korea. An adequate amount of food should be secured from GrainCO, the Australian Wheat Board, the Rice Grower’s Co-op and other sources. This can then be sent in three ways:
1. Direct government to government aid
2. Through the World Food Program
3. Through the Australian aid agencies that are trying to respond to the problem.
The Australian government can find $1.35 billion to bail out the Thai economy but can’t organise a food drop to those who are starving.”