Caritas is concerned about raised tension on the Korean Peninsula that could lead to further humanitarian tragedies.
Members of the Caritas confederation met in Seoul 20-21 June to discuss the present situation of North Korea and the ongoing aid programme of the network. Among the participants was Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight.
The heightened state of alert follows the sinking of the South Korean warship which was attributed to a North Korean torpedo attack by an international investigation team.
Caritas says that the incident has made it even more difficult to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in North Korea.
Caritas is supporting a Hepatitis B vaccination campaign that has reached half a million children, but the needs are much greater across the country.
In a statement, Caritas said, “The North Korean Government‘s militant attitude provokes further hard line stances among political sectors in the South and other countries involved. A vicious circle of aggressive actions might lead to further unintentional damage in relations, blockades for negotiation processes and more losses of life.
“Caritas reiterates its call for de-escalation and a peaceful solution of conflicts in a Christian spirit. It rejects any armed intervention which might cause further human tragedies. Sincere negotiations with practical outcomes for improving the living situation of North Korean people are the most appropriate way to find solutions and open new perspectives for development.
“The real situation of a majority of the North Korean population struggling for satisfaction of daily basic needs of food and health must not be forgotten. Aid organisations together with interested local partners have contributed to mitigate and create new development perspectives by project cooperation. Especially the economically weak groups of elderly people, children and sick people rely on the assistance from the outside.”
Caritas is cooperating in a Hepatitis B vaccination campaign for children. It also supplies supplementary food for Tuberculosis and Hepatitis patients. North Korean Ministry of Public Health said half a million children had been vaccinated in the Pyongyang area between February and April with the support of Caritas. But it said there was an urgent need to continue with a national campaign to reach a further million children.
Caritas said, “This humanitarian aid programs must go on, together with the exchange of technical experiences and identification of further needs and possibilities for a sustainable social development.”