United Nations hopes to increase humanitarian assistance to N. Korea

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United Nations coordinator for humanitarian Affairs mark Lowcock on the results of his visit to the DPRK said that within 20 years the situation has improved, but the country still did not get rid of the "considerable challenges in the humanitarian field".

Under-Secretary General Mark Lowcock on Wednesday paid a courtesy visit to Kim Yong-nam, who also serves as chairman of the Presidium of the North Korean Supreme People's Assembly, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Mark Lowcock, the United Nations humanitarian affairs chief, told Al Jazeera from Pyongyang that "some things have improved".

"More than half of children in rural areas".

Lowcock posted a video online outlining his observations after traveling to several areas in the southwest of the country.

Access for humanitarian workers was improving, he said without elaborating, but he noted that funding was falling short.

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Mortality rates for under-fives are 20 percent higher in the countryside than in towns, it said, adding a shortage of funding had forced it to stop nutrition support to kindergartens since November 2017.

Convincing donor states that their contributions could "save lives and reduce suffering" by providing North Koreans with much-needed food, drugs and other medical supplies would remain a top priority, Lowcock said.

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

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.

Although humanitarian supplies or operations are exempt under U.N. Security Council resolutions, U.N. officials have warned that worldwide sanctions over North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are exacerbating humanitarian problems by slowing aid deliveries.

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