It has been five months since North Korea declared it needed international assistance to feed its population, but the US has yet to decide whether to provide aid to the nation of 25 million people.

The government of Kim Jong Il limits access to outsiders – so the international community took notice when in February, the nation put out a plea for food aid because of a harsh winter and severe flooding.

The US stopped food aid to North Korea in 2008 after it could not reach a deal with Pyongyang on a monitoring programme – to ensure the food went to the needy.

The challenge for the Obama administration is trying to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe at a moment when it is not clear just how bad things really are for the North Korean people.

Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports.

Source: Al Jazeera