Pyongyang (Fides Service) - Kathi Zellweger, in charge of international cooperation for Caritas Hong Kong made her first visit to North Korea in 1995 on a humanitarian mission with the permission of the N. Korean authorities. Pyongyang opened its frontiers to aid for its people suffering serious food shortage. Caritas HK was one of the first NGOs to work in North Korea and has since supplied more than 27 million dollars worth of aid. Today ten years later, after 50 mission by Ms Zellweger North Korea highly appreciates the work of Caritas in aid of orphans, mothers, the elderly with health care programmes and agriculture programmes to improve farming and food supplies.
On his second visit to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, DPRK Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Duncan MacLaren, who was accompanied by Ms Zellweger and was speaking in Pyongyang, said: “In five years since my last visit there have been some positive changes, there is movement in the economy after the July 2003 reforms, there is more visible trading, more bikes on the road for example. However there are also growing gaps between the haves and have nots. While it was satisfying to note the positive impact o aid from Caritas, it was also obvious that there were still many needs”.
The Caritas representatives visited officials of their main partner, the Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee both at national and local level, and visited projects in Hamgyong province on the east coast. Caritas assists with food aid to hundreds of thousands of children, particularly orphans, pregnant and nursing women, provide input to cooperative farms to increase production and support projects in the health sector .
Mr MacLaren continued “while the 2004 harvest was the best in ten years, there was still a shortfall making 6.5 million people vulnerable and in need of food assistance. All this adds up to the need to continue the Caritas programme which also serves to engage the DPRK with the outside world. The Caritas programme is a good example of humanitarian engagement devoid of political manipulation. I am grateful to the 30 members of the Caritas Confederation and the many other organisations, Catholic, ecumenical and secular, who contribute funds to the programme and will be encouraging more to become involved”.
The last Caritas Hong Kong appeal for aid for N. Korea amounted to 2.5 million dollars and a similar one will be launched in April of this year after Ms Zellweger has completed her mission in the DPRK.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 7/3/2005 righe 32 parole 314)