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NZ supports North Korean food programme

13 February 2004 – embargoed until 2pm Media Statement

New Zealand supports North Korean food programme


Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that New Zealand would contribute around $370,000 (US$250,000) to the United Nations World Food Programme’s operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Helen Clark announced the new funding at a meeting with WFP Executive Director James Morris in Auckland.

A severe funding shortfall has forced the WFP to stop providing cereal rations to almost all of the 6.5 million North Koreans in its programme. This programme covers the most hungry and vulnerable segments of the country’s population. Only a few thousand children in orphanages and 75,000 pregnant and nursing women are expected to receive basic cereal rations for the next two months.

The funding crisis is also forcing WFP to drastically cut its food for work programme and threatens the closure of WFP assisted factories that provide enriched food for the malnourished.

Helen Clark said New Zealand could not stand by and do nothing as the humanitarian emergency in North Korea escalated.

“Millions of North Korea’s most hungry and vulnerable people – children, women and the elderly – are not receiving even minimum food supplies as a direct result of the forced cuts to WFP’s operations,” she said.

“It would be inhumane not to act now and have even more North Koreans suffer. As a caring and responsible member of the international community, we have a responsibility to act quickly.

“This announcement reinforces the importance New Zealand places on food security in the developing world.”

Helen Clark said New Zealand’s aid would be directed to two components of WFP’s programme. Some funds would go towards WFP-assisted factories that produce, store and distribute enriched foods for vulnerable groups, including infants, malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The rest would support WFP’s Food for Work programme, which supports more than two million North Koreans each year.

The WFP is the United Nations frontline agency in the fight against global hunger, and has an annual budget of US$1.6 billion.

New Zealand has a longstanding relationship with the WFP. Contributions through NZAID, the government’s international aid and development agency, have totalled more than $6.6 million since 2000. More than $4 million of these funds were made in the last 18 months to support WFP operations in North Korea, Southern Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Congo, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Myanmar and Iraq.

New Zealand has provided more than $6.3 million to support multilateral and regional agency initiatives in North Korea since 1994, with $1.6 million going to support WFP’s work in that country.

Helen Clark said New Zealand continues to share deep international concerns about North Korea’s nuclear policies.

ENDS

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