Photo/IllutrationSouth Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul speaks during a press conference at the government complex in Seoul on June 19. South Korea says it plans to send 50,000 tons of rice to North Korea through the World Food Program in its second aid package announced over the past month as it looks to help with the North's food shortages and improve bilateral relations. (AP Photo)

SEOUL--South Korea has provided its largest food and aid donation since 2008 to U.N. aid programs in North Korea, officials said on Wednesday, amid warnings that millions of dollars more is needed to make up for food shortages.

South Korea followed through on a promise to donate $4.5 million (488 million yen) to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), and announced it was also providing 50,000 tons of rice for delivery to its northern neighbor.

North Korea has said it is facing droughts, and U.N. aid agencies have said food production fell "dramatically" last year, leaving more than 10 million North Koreans at risk.

"This is the largest donation from the Republic of Korea to WFP DPRK since 2008 and will support 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant and nursing mothers," WFP senior spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in a statement, referring to his agency's operation in North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

More aid would be needed, however, to make up for the shortfalls, he said.

"WFP estimates that at least 300,000 metric tons of food, valued at $275 million, is needed to scale up humanitarian assistance in support of those people most affected by significant crop losses over successive seasons," Verhoosel said.

North Korea is under strict international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

While inter-Korean engagement spiked last year amid a push to resolve the nuclear standoff, Seoul's efforts to engage with Pyongyang have been less successful after a second U.S.-North Korea summit ended with no agreement in February.

Technically humanitarian aid is not blocked by the sanctions, but aid organizations said sanctions enforcement and a U.S. ban on its citizens traveling to North Korea had slowed and in some cases prevented aid from reaching the country.

Aid shipments have also been controversial because of fears that North Korea's authoritarian government would divert the supplies or potentially profit off it.

Verhoosel said the WFP would require "high standards for access and monitoring" to be in place before distributing any aid.

In March, Russia donated more than 2,000 tons of wheat to the WFP's North Korea program.