It is with thankfulness that we look back on another year of partnering with the people of North Korea some of which we met personally when they came to Switzerland. From others we have heard through the reports of our partners telling us what they have been able to achieve with the finances they received from us. Networking, communicating, building bridges, going the extra mile – it was a year of challenges stretching me to my limits but at the same time a source of much joy.
In 2017 we will remain committed to Koreans and Swiss meeting each other. We will continue to work towards combined heat and power generation. And are looking forward to hearing how and where deaf people can work creatively and how we can support them.
All of this is only possible through our partnership with many other people and organizations.
In late August the typhoon “Lionrock” arrived in the mountains of North Korea. It rained heavily for three days causing all streams to flood and destroy everything in the area. The flooding along the Tumen River, the river bordering China, washed away whole settlements.
North Korea mobilized thousands of soldiers to clear railroad tracks and streets. Together with international organizations they rebuilt houses for people that had lost their homes – all before the winter. 30‘000 residential buildings were destroyed, over 500 people were killed and about 600‘000 people were in need. 27‘000 hectares of land were flooded shortly before harvest. The people that lost their houses also lost their kitchen gardens – hunger will be a threat in the coming winter. The people in the whole country collected relief goods, gave away their kitchen utensils, and as much food as they were able.
Besides the North Korean Red Cross many international relief organizations as well as the UN reacted quickly. Emergency aid kits, building materials, food, and hygiene products were immediately sent to the affected areas. The government secured the monitoring and follow-up of the distributed goods. Many organizations were allowed to visit the affected areas.
Several organizations were able to relieve the immediate need with the materials that they had in stock. But the next spring and the next harvest is many months from now!
The North Korean embassy in Berne has asked us for help. In our proven cooperation with GAiN Germany we have sent a container of relief goods, consisting mainly of baby food, soap, and tea. Our container is a welcome contribution to existing help.
The affected areas are difficult to access: They are far from the sea and the port. Trucks must drive over many hills and mountains on natural all-weather roads. In China the roads to the border of North Korea are better developed. But certain laws and international sanctions do not allow relief goods coming from other countries to be transported through Chinese territory, although the sanctions expressly allow humanitarian aid. As a result of the sanctions, many countries and organizations are extremely careful in becoming involved in North Korea or with organizations that are active in North Korea.
On request of the North Korean embassy and in cooperation with GAiN Germany we have sent a container with relief goods.