The plan to monitor the transport of relief supplies ended at the Yalu, the border river between China and North Korea. We assume that the container with the proven baby food has reached its goal, the area around Yonsa.
Unfortunately, we cannot witness the distribution: After quite some back and forth, we were not given an entry visa. The precise reasons probably have little to do with the current situation and are not clear to me. Therefore, I am somewhat disappointed. I would have liked to explain the correct use of the nutrition on-site: something the recipients always appreciated. I would have liked to tell you about it as well. Now it is up to GAiN Germany to hold negotiations determining if further relief good transports are worthwhile and possible in the future.
I am already in Beijing when I find out that I would not be granted entry. To make the most of the extra time I still travel east to the border: From a reconstructed watch tower close to the Chinese border city of Dandong you have a wonderful view into North Korea: Fields with untiring workers plan ting corn, a couple of oxen or cows pulling a plow, a chugging tractor and a couple of villages in the distance.
Despite the harsh rhetoric in the media, despite the missile tests, it is downright peaceful here, everybody is busy doing their work. In contrast, the Chinese fields spread out behind my back. Close to the city they are covered in plastic or completely covered by green houses. I bless both sides of the river in my mind, I wish the people peace and well-being, that their work would feed them and they would enjoy it.
On a short boat trip on the river I witness Chinese tourists and their reaction to the North Koreans we see on our way: Some of them wave and smile at them, others call out a provocative “Hello” and less friendly words to the opposite bank. I feel like I am in the zoo: Observing North Koreans. I notice that most Chinese hardly know anything about their neighbors. They glance over the border curiously – but seem to have no interest in more.
After the flood disaster in North Korea in the fall of last year, many people lost their homes and their provisions for the winter.
In the meantime, the container that we sent after the request for aid from the North Korean embassy and in proven cooperation with GAiN Germany will have arrived.
In May we will travel to the region Yonsa that was most affected by the flooding to supervise the distribution of the relief goods. I know from experience that it is good to explain how to use the baby food on-site.
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.
We expect another two containers with aid to arrive in July. One container contains a warm water collector in addition to thousands of jars of baby food from the Sunval corporation.
The solar collector, a demonstration model, was acquired very reasonably. We look forward to installing it in one of the two orphanages in Hamhung, so that they will have warm water heated by the sun. We will visit the various recipients of the aid in August in order to ensure proper delivery of the material to the intended locations.
This will also be an opportunity for us to train local workers to use and maintain the solar collectors. Our partners at the Global Aid Network (GAiN) will join us on the trip. We are fortunate to have such valuable partners! I wonder whether we will recognize any of the children – they will certainly have grown since our last visit!
[Agape international, Northkorea, our heart‘s concern, June 2013, Relief Aid for Children]