**UN: Humanitarian Efforts in North Korea 'Seriously Underfunded' **
The United Nations is calling for the international community to put aside political differences and boost funding to help address what it says are the dire humanitarian needs of North Koreans.
The U.N. said Tuesday that aid efforts in North Korea remain "seriously underfunded," even as it unveiled a funding request for an additional $198 million to respond to "key humanitarian priorities" in the impoverished communist state in 2012.
International donors provided just over a third of the $218 million the U.N. requested for North Korean aid in 2011. Because of the lack of funds, the international body said it was unable to effectively address the humanitarian needs there.
The U.N. described serious humanitarian conditions in North Korea in its report, saying 16 million people continue to suffer from chronic food insecurity, high malnutrition rates, and deep-rooted economic problems.
It said undernourished children are particularly at risk, with nearly a third of children under five showing signs of stunting and hundreds more dying from preventable conditions such as diarrhea.
**UN's Ban, Annan to Syria: Let Monitors Enter Rebel Town **
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and international envoy Kofi Annan have called on Syria to allow U.N. monitors to enter a rebellious northwestern town where the United States fears Syrian security forces are planning to massacre civilians.
Syrian activists and residents of Al-Haffeh say government helicopters and tanks have been attacking the town in Latakia province, trapping many civilians. In a statement released late Monday, Mr. Ban said it is important for U.N. observers to be granted "unimpeded access" to Al-Haffeh. Earlier, Mr. Annan had expressed "grave concern" about the situation in the town and "demanded" that the monitors be allowed to enter "immediately."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington is deeply alarmed about reports from inside Syria that government forces "may be organizing" massacres in Al-Haffeh and other opposition strongholds, including the Damascus suburbs, Daraa, Deir el-Zour, Hama and Homs.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nationwide attacks by government and rebel forces killed at least 63 civilians and 21 troops on Monday.