The South and North Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council approved the remittance of $8 million to the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the South's unification ministry in charge of cross-border affairs said on Wednesday.
The ministry said that $4.5 million would be sent for a WFP project in North Korea to distribute nutritional products to infants, pregnant women and nursing mothers at day care centers, nursery schools and children's wards in 60 counties. The remittance is expected to take place as early as next week.
The remaining $3.5 million would be used by UNICEF to provide North Korean children, pregnant women and nursing mothers with therapeutic diets, basic essential medicine kits and micronutrients complex.
South Korea suspended almost all civilian inter-Korean exchanges since the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January 2016. After Moon took office in 2017, Seoul approved $8 million in economic assistance through U.N. agencies, but it did not go to North Korea due to international sanctions.
At a telephone conversion that followed the launch of short-range missiles by North Korea on May 4, U.S. President Donald Trump discussed North Korea's food situation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and endorsed food aid.
Trump has advocated a "big deal" under which North Korea would dismantle all of its nuclear arsenal and related facilities in exchange for the removal of sanctions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has threatened to take a different path, urging Washington to come up with a "fair" and "mutually acceptable" deal by the end of this year.
In their joint assessment on May 3, U.N. bodies said that 40 percent of the North's population was in urgent need of food aid due to a bad harvest that left the impoverished North with a 1.36 million ton shortage of grain.
On Wednesday, Rodong Sinmun, the North's communist party newspaper, reported that many areas in North Korea's South Hwanghae Province, a rice belt, faces serious water shortages during an ongoing drought. Other media outlets called for all-out efforts to fight drought in the face of a record dry spell.
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