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Child malnutrition rates in DPR of Korea decline

Child malnutrition rates in DPR of Korea decline, UN study shows

Malnutrition rates among children in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – long hit by adverse weather and economic problems – have declined in the past two years but remain relatively high, and well-targeted international aid must be sustained, according to a new United Nations survey released today.

“These results are encouraging, and show that the balanced rations and fortified foods we provide to millions of the most vulnerable are helping,” the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director for the DPRK, Richard Ragan, told a news conference in Beijing.

The large-scale, random sample survey covered both child and maternal nutrition and was carried out last October by the Government’s Central Bureau of Statistics and Institute of Child Nutrition, in collaboration with the WFP and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The UN agencies said that although the new assessment is not strictly comparable with the previous survey conducted in October 2002, positive trends are apparent in two areas: the proportion of young children chronically malnourished, or stunted (height-for-age), has fallen to 37 percent from 42 percent; and acute malnutrition, or wasting (weight-for-height), has declined to 7 per cent from 9 per cent.

They attributed the improvements in part to the significant levels of support provided by the international community in recent years. While the proportion of children under six found to be underweight (weight-for-age) increased to 23 per cent from 21 per cent, the rate among 1-2 year-olds – the most nutritionally vulnerable group – fell to 21 per cent from 25 per cent.

WFP, which supports 6.5 million people in the DPRK, provides a full ration of cereals and foods enriched with micronutrients by UNICEF to pregnant and nursing women, nursery and kindergarten children. Primary school children are given a daily supplement of fortified biscuits and school children in urban areas receive a take-home cereal ration.

About one-third of mothers were found to be malnourished and anaemic, which are key factors contributing to child malnutrition. This is an area of concern, as it indicates no progress over the past two years.

“The health and nutritional status of North Korean mothers inevitably determines that of their children, and are crucial to breaking the vicious cycle of impaired growth,” UNICEF’s Country Representative Pierrette Vu Thi said.

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