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UN Human Rights Expert Laments Food Aid Cuts

UN Human Rights Expert Laments Food Aid Cuts To DPRK Which Shares The Blame

New York, Oct 23 2006 7:00PM

The reluctance of donors to provide aid to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) following its reported nuclear test is causing rising hunger in the country and exacerbating the suffering of groups already facing a grim human rights situation, a United Nations independent expert warned today.

Food aid to the DPRK has already been cut drastically this year, leaving close to 2 million of the country’s most needy people without adequate calories, warned Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn at a press conference in New York.

He said the Pyongyang authorities should shift the “serious waste of money on arms” to more productive development uses, including sustainable agriculture, to avoid the periodic famines the country has faced.

In a report submitted to the General Assembly last week, he noted that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) would be attempting to distribute aid to 1.9 million of the most needy North Koreans but that this year the amount available had been slashed to 75,000 tons of food, down from 500,000 tons per year previously.

“There are major concerns in regard to the rights to food and life, the rights to security of the person and humane treatment, the rights to freedom of movement, asylum and refugee protection, and various political rights such as self-determination, freedom of expression, association and religion,” Mr. Muntarbhorn wrote in his rep`rt.

He also called on the DPRK to reform its prison and judicial systems and to stop punishing citizens who are forcibly returned after trying to escape to other countries.

On Friday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urged donors to “continue their life-saving programmes” even while UN sanctions are imposed on the country for the nuclear test.

Working with WFP and other partners, UNICEF has treated about 70 per cent of the severely malnourished children in the country but roughly one third of all mothers are still malnourished, a rate that has not improved since 2002.


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