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DPR Korea: UN feed programme for 6.5m Under-Funded

DPR Of Korea: UN Efforts To Feed 6.5 Million ‘Critically’ Under-Funded

United Nations operations to feed 6.5 million of the most vulnerable people in the Democratic People’s Republic Korea (DPRK) remain “critically under-funded,” standing at less than the total raised to help victims of last month's deadly train explosion there, a senior UN official said today.

Unless additional pledges are made soon the number of core beneficiaries no longer receiving grain from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) will rise from 1 million now to 3.8 million in October, the agency’s director for Asia, Tony Banbury warned.

He hailed the efforts to help those affected by the blast at Ryongchon while cautioning that the ongoing food emergency still needs global attention. "The speed and scale of the response to appeals for the wounded and homeless of Ryongchon are as heart-warming as they are vital," Mr. Banbury told reporters in Seoul. "But we must not forget the broader humanitarian crisis that continues to deprive so many more of a very basic diet, drinkable water and decent healthcare."

He noted that international donations for Ryongchon, a town of 27,000 where the 22 April explosion killed some 170 people, injured 1,300 and made nearly 8,000 others homeless, had now reached almost $30 million, while only $21 million had so far been mobilized this year for the $171-million wider emergency operation.

DPRK has suffered long-term food shortages stemming from devastating droughts in the past decade, and WFP said economic adjustments arising from the Government's push for efficiency and profit had aggravated disparities in access to basic foods between better-off rural populations and those in urban areas accounting for two-thirds of the country's 23 million people.

While increased agricultural production in recent years has reduced the gap and the need for external assistance, the country’s food crisis is likely to persist owing to the limited scope for higher output, the agency added.

A fall-off in contributions has forced WFP to halt vital, supplemental rations to millions of designated recipients for long periods since mid-2002. In February, the agency all but ran out of cereals, its staple commodity. Recent shipments, including 38,000 tons of maize from the United States, have afforded some relief.

Tens of thousands of nursery and kindergarten children have had to make do without enriched vegetable oil – a key promoter of physical and mental growth - for the last six months, according to WFP.

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