Six million in North need more food: UN report

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Six million in North need more food: UN report

Over six million people in North Korea are in need of more food, according to the latest report by the United Nations World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the biggest factor affecting the country’s food supply is severed trade ties with South Korea.

“The DPRK has suffered a series of shocks in recent months, leaving the country highly vulnerable to a food crisis,” begins the report, referring to flooding last year, a hard winter and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

“Those who are in most need of food support are children; pregnant and lactating women; elderly; large families with a high dependency ratio; and people unable to work because of illnesses,” the report said.

Due to continuous hardships, North Koreans were resorting to various strategies to cope with hunger, the report said.

A WFP and FAO mission interviewed 122 households in nine provinces during a visit in February and found that “40 percent of households reported they added more water to increase the volume of food on a daily basis.

“[Seventy-five] percent of those interviewed reported engaging in this practice one or more time a week,” the report said. Another option was to skip meals entirely.

Households forced to rely on the country’s Public Distribution System, particularly in cities, relied on help from relatives living in farming cooperatives for food.

“About 60 percent of urban households reported receiving such support in the past twelve months,” the report said.

The report estimated that staple food production during the harvest season from 2010 through 2011 was 4,252,000 metric tons, 232,000 metric tons fewer than the prediction of a Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (Cfsam) by the WFP last year.

The ability to import food was apparently reduced, which would explain why North Korea has been reaching out to many countries for aid in recent weeks. The three main reasons for decreased imports were high international food and fuel prices, political fallout with South Korea, and the devaluation of the North Korean won due to a currency renomination in November 2009.

Among the three, strained ties with the South and the United States took the biggest toll.

The WFP observed that North Korea’s imports automatically rose after South Korea and the U.S. refused to give food assistance. As a result, it spent more than $117 million during the harvest year from 2009 to 2010 to import 282,000 metric tons of cereals, “nearly double the outlay of the previous year,” according to the report.

China, North Korea’s biggest ally, stepped in and assisted the North with over 30,000 tons of rice, soybeans and wheat flour, according to information obtained by the WFP from the North Korean government. Myanmar, Vietnam, Canada and Russia were also on the list of food contributors.

The WFP confirmed reports in February that North Korea had experienced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which ravaged South Korea’s livestock industry around the same time.

“A total of 135 farms in 41 cities and counties in eight provinces were found to be FMD positive,” said the report. Between Feb. 28 and March 8, the FAO Crisis Management Center-Animal Health and the World Organization for Animal Health fielded a Rapid Deployment Team to North Korea. The mission was a response to North Korea’s request for help with the epidemic earlier in February. The methods to battle the disease “had not been sufficient” and the report said that North Korea is lacking in “technical and financial resources and capacities” to bring the epidemic under control.

The report also warned that donations of commodities should be “approached with caution.”

“[Distribution should] only be undertaken when sufficient monitoring is permitted to assure that designated beneficiaries receive their ration in full,” it said.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

유엔 “북한 600만 명 굶주려…식량 47만5000t 지원해야”

유엔은 북한 인구의 4분의 1에 해당하는 600만 명 이상이 심각한 식량 부족에 시달릴 수 있다며 국제사회에 47만5000t의 식량 지원을 권고했다. 유엔 산하 세계식량기구(WFP)·식량농업기구(FAO)·유니세프(UNICEF)는 지난달부터 이달 초까지 북한 을 방문한 뒤 24일(현지시간) 펴낸 보고서에서 “‘식량 부족기(lean season·5~7월)’ 초기에 식량 배급이 바닥날 수 있다”고 평가했다.

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