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Severe Food Shortages For Millions in North Korea


UN Agency Warns Of Continuing Severe Food Shortages For Millions In Dpr Of Korea

Despite a stop-gap resumption of food aid to the hungriest of the hungry in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), 1.5 million people will still go short over the next six weeks and millions more will be deprived in the second half of the year unless additional donations arrive soon, the United Nations emergency feeding agency warned today.

Shortages reached a new unprecedented low at the beginning of February when the World Food Programme (WFP) could only provide enough cereal to feed 85,000 women and children - a tiny fraction of the 6.5 million people considered most at risk. Cereals are the main staple of the food aid ration.

Since WFP launched its latest urgent appeal on 9 February, contributions have been received from Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Norway, and in particular a stop-gap loan this month of 25,000 tonnes of cereals from the DPRK’s own limited strategic stocks – normally used for the public distribution system – has allowed deliveries to be resumed to most of the hungry.

A further donation of 60,000 tons of food from the United States and important contributions from the European Commission and Australia will also provide crucially needed assistance, but deliveries will only start arriving in April and will not last very long.

WFP Executive Director James Morris warned that much more food would be needed this year if the agency is to avoid further cuts in aid to its neediest beneficiaries after a recent round of severe aid shortages greatly aggravated the already severe humanitarian crisis.

“Our ability to borrow commodities to cover this month means that we can now resume cereal distributions to most - but not all - of the 6.5 million children, women and elderly identified as particularly needy," Masood Hyder, WFP Representative for the DPRK, said. “But it's critical to remember that this is only a partial and temporary solution, as the loans will have to be repaid as soon as possible from future donor contributions to WFP."

Even with the agency’s stop-gap borrowings from the DPRK and other sources, 1.5 million of its 4.2 million "core" beneficiaries will still have to make do without cereal rations for the next six weeks. Scheduled shipments will reduce that number to 600,000 in April-May, but without further commitments soon, the number will rise again to 1 million in June and to almost 3 million in August.

"Given the long lead time between food aid donations and deliveries - routinely three to four months - we need pledges now in order to feed the hungriest of the hungry in the latter part of the year as well as to repay loans," Mr. Hyder said.

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