Open dialogue with North Korean authorities

Despite the harsh words of the past months, everything seems to be ‘business as usual’. This is the feeling when you are inside North Korea, according to Kim Hartzner, Managing Director of the Danish NGO Mission East. He just returned from the country after visiting orphanages and victims of last year’s flooding.

  • The dialogue with the local authorities is open and transparent. They seem sincerely interested in improving people’s lives and are sad when people live in poverty or lose their homes, says Kim Hartzner who returned from North Korea this past weekend.

  • When you meet people face to face and eat a meal with them, they tell about their children, about everyday life and about how they are, he says.

Since 2011 Mission East has distributed food aid to more than 50.000 needy people in North Korea and has provided assistance to the construction of 511 homes for victims of last year’s devastating flooding in the provinces of North Pyongan and South Pyongan. During every visit Mission East has been given access to monitor the distribution of aid, photograph storage cards, carry out interviews and also to appear for the monitoring visits at short notice.

Many are still in need food aid

  • Our assistance is reaching the beneficiaries. Last summer, we started a six-month programme of distributing food supplements to the 750 children at three orphanages in the town of Haeju, followed by a period of three months of distributing soy beans, rich in proteins. As a result of these distributions we can now document a significant improvement in the health status of the children when comparing measurements of weight and height over the course of the distribution period, says Kim Hartzner.

In November 2012 five percent of the children suffered from severe acute malnutrition, but during last week’s measurements there were none in this category. Also from November 2012, the rate of children showing the signs of long term malnutrition, i.e. with reduced height according to age, has decreased from 93 to 80 percent. There are however still 20 percent suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and many of them show the signs of getting too little psychological attention and spend significant amounts of time rocking back and forth in a kind of self-stimulation.

  • Despite the great needs it is wonderful to see that it actually makes a difference to help these children. At the same time, it is terrible to think that there are thousands who get no help at all. They are extremely vulnerable to variations in harvest outcomes and thus the risk of seeing their food rations cut down. There continues to be a great need for help, emphasizes Kim Hartzner.

It is estimated that nationally, more than 25 percent of the children in North Korea do not get enough food. They are marked by chronic malnutrition and are lower than other children at their age.

See the new pictures and read more: http://photos.miseast.org/NorthKorea/Nordkorea2013/30499836_wNbrMc#!i=2636315721&k=DV3wPhw

For additional information call + 45 20 44 76 42 or write to peter.boje@missioneast.org