PYONGYANG, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) — Humanitarian aid to disaster-hit areas in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) should be exempt from the ongoing sanctions against Pyongyang, a U.N. coordinator in the DPRK said Monday.
"We are appealing that sanctions specifically excludes humanitarian assistance and that we should keep away our political differences and geopolitics out of humanitarian assistance," Tapan Mishra, U.N. Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the DPRK, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
"We do not want to make them (people in flood-affected areas) victims of geopolitics," he said, voicing hope that countries could reach out their helping hand.
Huge damage has been caused by the heavy rains, floods and landslides in the northern part of North Hamgyong Province since late August to the local people, property and key infrastructure.
"The major damage is in the three counties (cities) in the North Hamgyong," Tapan said, referring to Hoeryong, Musan and Yonsa, all of which are located in the northeast of the DPRK and along the Tumen River.
The most urgent task facing the government is to build 20,000 houses for those displaced by the floods before the winter comes because the temperature will fall below zero by the end of October, which can be a big problem for the homeless.
"They have the capacity to build the houses, but they may not have adequate roofing, so the (DPRK) government has been telling us and telling all the governments directly to help them in procuring the roof of the houses," said Tapan.
Asked whether he believed enough shelter could be provided before November, Tapan said he was quite optimistic, as the DPRK has mobilized and redirected all resources across the country to focus on the pressing need.
The resident coordinator sees the impact on the grain output for this year as limited because most devastated areas do not include highest-yielding places like North Hwanghae and South Hwanghae, though that 16,000 hectares of arable land has been inundated.
Tapan, along with his colleagues and DPRK officials, will travel to the most affected places in North Hamgyong on a three-day trip to see what the circumstances are like there and what needs should be prioritized.
A government-led joint needs assessment was conducted from Sept. 6-9 by a team that included U.N. agencies, the DPRK Red Cross and non-governmental organizations. After the assessment, shelter, food, health care, water and sanitation have been identified as immediate needs.
A total of 138 people have been confirmed killed and 400 others remain missing after heavy rains and floods devastated the country in late August, according to a latest press release given by Tapan's office in Pyongyang.
An estimated 140,000 people are in urgent need of assistance, said the official document.
The DPRK government has made it a top priority to build shelters for the displaced people in affected areas and a campaign intended to promote economic development has been redirected to aid the disaster victims.
The government has also appealed to several Asian countries to offer help in recovery and rehabilitation.