(UPDATED) UN World Food program gearing up for operations

Update 3: The second shipment of US food aid has arrived in North Korea.  Also, DPRK has suffered terrible rains in August.  Story here and here. 

UPDATE 2: The Daily NK reports some good news on the DPRKs food production:

With the stabilization of food prices in North Korea, which had skyrocketed during the first half of the year, the potato harvest which began at the end of June has been lifting the food burden of the citizens.

A source from North Korea said in a conversation with the Daily NK on the 26th, “In the border regions of North Hamkyung Province the first round of harvesting was successful. Accordingly, the price of new potatoes has fallen below 300 won since mid-July.”

The source added, “In the market in Hyesan, Yangkang Province, potatoes cost 280 won per kilogram. Newly-harvested barley has also been appearing; it’s a huge help to the civilians.”

Until the first week of June, the jangmadang price of potatoes in North Korea was 300 won in Pyongyang, 400 won in Hoiryeong, and 450 won in Chongjin per kilogram.

Regarding the price of rice and corn, the source continued, “In the North Hamkyung and Yangang Provinces, the price of rice is 2,200~2,400 won (per kg) and the price of corn 1,200~1,400 won. Originally, during the collective farm’s harvest distribution in December, 4kg of potato was equivalent to 1kg of corn, so the prices of rice and corn are not actually any more expensive now.”

UPDATE 1: Here (link) are the results of the UN World Food Program/FAO June DPRK survey. Some highlights:

The RFSA covered 53 counties in eight provinces (Ryanggang, North Hamgyong, South Hamgyong, Kangwon, North Hwanghae, South Hwanghae, South Phyongan, Pyongyang). Experts visited hundreds of households, child institutions and hospitals across the country in the most comprehensive assessment on food and nutrition conducted in DPRK since 2004. Key findings indicate:

  1. Food availability, accessibility and utilization have deteriorated sharply since 2007.
  2. Close to three quarters of the households have reduced their food intake.
  3. More malnourished and ill children are being admitted to hospitals and institutions.
  4. Diarrhoea caused by increased consumption of wild foods was one of the leading causes of malnutrition amongst children under five.

The experts found that the majority of the families surveyed have cut out protein from their diet, and are living on cereals and vegetables alone. Food prices have soared — rice now costs almost three times more than a year ago, and maize has quadrupled. Heavy reliance on support from relatives as a means of coping with food shortages is widespread in areas such as North Hamgyong Province, one of the worst affected regions.

Donors to WFP’s current programme in DPRK include the United States (US$60 million), Republic of Korea (US$20 million), Russian Federation (US$8 million), Switzerland (US$6.6 million), Germany (US$3.4 million), Australia (US$4.2 million), UN CERF (US$2.3 million, for CERF see: http://ochaonline.un.org), Multilateral funds (US$1.9 million), Cuba and Italy (US$1.5 million each), Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and Norway (US$1 million each), Finland (US$737,000), Turkey (US$150,000), Greece (US$ 45,000) and private donors (US$17,000).

ORIGINAL POST: North Korea’s food crisis has been out of the headlines since US food aid arrived a couple of weeks ago followed by the destruction of the Yongbyon cooling tower, six-party talks progress, ASEAN non-aggression treaty, and Kumgang shooting incident.  But now that the UN World Food Program is preparing operations, the crisis is back in the news.  From the Wahsington Post:

The main U.N. aid agency in North Korea, the World Food Program, will resume emergency operations there in the next two weeks to help feed more than 5 million people over the next 15 months at a cost of $500 million, said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the agency’s country director in Pyongyang.

“The situation is indeed very serious,” de Margerie said at a news conference in Beijing.

The resumption of emergency operations, which were scaled back in 2005 on a request from the North Korean government, was decided after a U.N. survey last month showed the most severe and widespread hunger among North Koreans in a decade. The survey was taken after the Pyongyang government, in an unusual gesture, officially acknowledged a growing hunger crisis and appealed for international aid.


[…] the United States recently pledged to give North Korea 500,000 tons of food over the next six months, most of which will be distributed by the World Food Program as part of its emergency effort. De Margerie said the first delivery, 37,000 tons of wheat, arrived in a North Korean port two weeks ago, and more shiploads are expected soon.

In contrast to past practice, the North Korean government has been willing to allow U.N. aid workers more leeway to monitor delivery of the new food supplies, de Margerie said. Similarly supple oversight rules were negotiated by the United States as a condition for its 500,000-ton donation.

The ballooning food crisis began mainly because of flooding last summer that damaged fields, leading to insufficient crops and soaring food prices. At the same time, de Margerie said, imports dropped dramatically this spring, particularly from South Korea and China.

This exacerbated a perennial shortfall of around 20 percent, or 1.6 million tons, in the amount of food needed to adequately nourish North Korea’s 23 million inhabitants. As a result, prices of such staples as rice, eggs and corn doubled, tripled and even quadrupled, de Margerie said.

Now, de Margerie said, resumption of emergency operations will aim at getting food to between 5 million and 6 million people by September, which is considered a critical period because this autumn’s crops will not have entered the government-run distribution system. Quick donations of about $20 million are needed to get the new program running swiftly, he added.

And where are these funds going to come from.  Well, New Zealand has made public its intentions to fund the effort:

New Zealand will provide half a million dollars to the United Nations to help North Korea which is facing a food shortage.

New Zealand previously gave $500,000 via the Red Cross after last year’s floods.

New Zealand established diplomatic relations with North Korea in 2001.

According to Yonhap:

The areas undergoing the crisis include the Hamgyong and Ryanggang provinces, the site said, adding that the World Food Programme plans to launch a new project to address the food needs in these northeastern regions. 

Read the full stories here:
U.N.: Millions Hungry in North Korea
Washington Post Foreign Service
Edward Cody

NZ to give aid to North Korea
National Business Review

Northeastern NK in serious food crisis: UN Web site


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