SEOUL, July 5 (Bernama) -- South Korea and the World Food Programme (WFP) are in the final stage of discussions on signing an official deal over Seoul's plan to provide rice aid to North Korea through the United Nations (UN) food agency, Yonhap news agency reported, quoting South Korean unification ministry Friday.
Last month, the ministry handling inter-Korean affairs unveiled a plan to provide 50,000 tonnes of domestically harvested rice to North Korea through the WFP, which will handle its delivery and distribution there. The ministry earlier said that it plans to sign an official contract with the WFP on its aid provision plan this week.
"We are in the final stage of talks with the WFP (on the singing matter)," Kim Eun Han, the ministry's deputy spokesperson, told a regular press briefing, adding that the government will work hard to complete the signing process as soon as possible.
North Korea is reportedly facing worsening food shortages apparently caused by crushing global sanctions and years of unfavourable weather conditions. Observers say that an ongoing drought in many parts of North Korea could make things worse for its already strained food supply conditions.
South Korea is pushing to send the food assistance to the North before the lean season starts in September. A ministry official earlier said that Seoul aims to make the first shipment to the North this month.
It marks the first time for South Korea to provide rice to North Korea since 2010, when it sent 5,000 tonnes to support its efforts to recover from flood damage. It will also be the first time Seoul has sent locally harvested rice to the North through an international agency.
Separately, Seoul earlier donated US$8 million to the WFP and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) for their projects in North Korea to support the nutrition of children and pregnant women and address their health problems.