N. Koreans Famine Deepens

News and Press Release
Originally published
HONG KONG (AP) -- North Korea's famine is deepening and there is no sign of relief, an international aid agency official says.

Recent flooding in the isolated Communist country has worsened an already acute food shortage, Kathi Zellweger, director of the Rome-based Catholic aid agency Caritas, told Associated Press Television on Saturday.

Zellweger, who recently returned from North Korea, said ''everybody is suffering and everybody is hungry.''

''It is different from what we are used to from Africa famine, where you see the hollow bellies and all that,'' she said in an interview in Beijing.

''You do not see much of that in North Korea because the food available is distributed very thinly over the whole population,'' Zellweger added.

North Korea was hit by severe floods last year that killed thousands, destroyed large stretches of farm land and left 500,000 people homeless. Massive flooding struck the country against this summer, reportedly killing 116 people.

American congressman Tony Hall said last month after visiting North Korea that authorities had cut daily grain rations for many people to between 8.8 ounces and 12.3 ounces. He said dwindling food stocks were being diverted from adults to children, and reported that weight losses of more than 30 pounds was common.

The U.N. World Food Program has said that North Korea needs an estimated 268,000 tons of food to feed its people. Caritas International recently delivered more than 3,000 tons of rice to flood-stricken areas of the country.

''I don't think we are dealing with a one-year difficulty. This will go on for quite some time and I would believe that aid agencies will have to look at long-term involvement'' in North Korea, Zellweger said.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press