Archive for the ‘UN Food and Agriculture Organization’ Category

UN to contribute $400,000 to fight foot and mouth disease

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

UPDATE 1(2014-4-5): According to VOA and Yonhap, the DPRK has  submitted a report to the UN World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on the outbreak of FMD:

The Voice of America (VOA) said that Pyongyang submitted a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), saying that the disease broke out at a cow farm in Cholwon county of Kangwon Province, near the boarder area with South Korea, on March 14.

Nine cows out of 52 were infected with FMD, and one of them died, it added.

It is the first time for North Korea to report FMD in cows. It has notified OIE of outbreak of FMD in pigs in February.

Last week, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the foot-and-mouth disease in North Korea had spread fast, infecting four cows near the border with South Korea.

According to the VOA, the United States, Canada and Mexico will consider providing vaccination to help North Korea upon its request.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-4-3): According to Yonhap:

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) plans to provide US$400,000 to North Korea to help eradicate the rapidly spreading foot-and-mouth disease there, a U.S. radio report said.

The FAO also plans to send quarantine officials to North Korea after finalizing its aid program there, the VOA said.

Foot-and-mouth disease is an infectious and sometimes fatal disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals such as pigs, cattle, deer and sheep.

In February, the North’s state media reported that the country had culled 2,900 pigs as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the disease and buried about 360 others that had died from the disease.

Last week, the FAO said the foot-and-mouth disease in North Korea has spread fast, infecting four cows near the border with South Korea, according to the VOA.

Still, North Korea remained mum for over a month on South Korea’s offer of assistance to contain foot-and-mouth disease.

The North’s silence comes amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the exchange of fire by the rival Koreas across their disputed western maritime border, as well as Pyongyang’s threat of a nuclear test.

Pyongyang has also threatened to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test in anger over a United Nations condemnation of its recent ballistic missile launches. North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, drawing international condemnation and U.N. sanctions.

South Korea has vowed to continue humanitarian assistance to the North regardless of political tensions.

Read the full story here:
U.N. to provide US$400,000 to N. Korea over FMD: report
Yonhap
2014-4-3

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DPRK grain production up in 2013

Friday, December 27th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s grain production is expected to rise slightly this year, a report said Friday, possibly higher than initially estimated.

According to the report from South Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA), the North’s overall grain production in the 2013-2014 harvest year is expected to reach 4.81 million tons, up 3 percent from 4.68 million tons tallied in the 2012-2013 period.

The rise comes partly from an increase in rice output, which is estimated to gain 2.9 percent on-year to 2.1 million tons.

The figure has a gap with an earlier estimate from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which forecast the communist state’s rice output to reach 1.7 million tons this year, slightly better than the annual average of 1.6 million tons.

“The weather in North Korea this year had been more favorable to the growth of crops (than last year) as the average temperature between May and September came to 19.9 degrees Celsius, 0.3 degrees higher than that of last year, while the country’s overall precipitation also rose 7.5 percent on-year to 1,001.5mm over the cited period,” the RDA said in its report.

The report said the North’s corn output was also expected to have gained 1.7 percent on-year to 1.76 million tons this year. The FAO earlier forecast the North’s corn output to reach 2.3 million tons.

North Korea suffers from chronic food shortages with the average amount of rice and corn consumed by the people said to be only half of the daily consumption recommended by the United Nations.

Read the previous post on the UN food assessment report here.

Read the full story here:
Report says N. Korea’s grain production likely to grow this year
Yonhap
2013-12-27

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DPRK harvest up 5% for third year, but chronic malnutrition persists

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

“Speical Report: FAO/WFP crop and food security assessment mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korean”
Read the full report here (PDF)Previous reports here.

According to the UN WFP/FAO Press Release (on Thanksgiving day!):

ROME/PYONGYANG – A nationwide assessment by two United Nations agencies shows an increase in staple food production in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the third year running.

The report, however, notes that although rates of child malnutrition have steadily declined over the past 10 years, rates of stunting caused by malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life remain high and micronutrient deficiencies are of particular concern.

The joint Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to the DPRK by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) visited all nine agricultural provinces in late September and early October around the main annual cereal harvest.

Total food production is estimated at about 5.03 million metric tons (including milled rice) in 2013, which is about a 5 percent increase over the previous year. Despite the improved harvest, the food security situation is still unsatisfactory with 84 percent of households having borderline or poor food consumption.

The mission observed immense logistical challenges for the public food distribution system and expressed concerns about the timeliness and consistency of distributions. Markets and informal mechanisms of bartering and other forms of exchange are believed to be of increasing importance for access to food by families, particularly in urban areas.

“Despite continued improvement in agricultural production, the food system in the DPRK remains highly vulnerable to shocks and serious shortages exist particularly in the production of protein-rich foods,” said Kisan Gunjal, FAO economist and co-leader of the mission. “In the interest of increased protein consumption and to reverse the downward trend of soybean production, the price paid to farmers for soybean should be increased.”

Since 1998, WFP in partnership with the government has produced blended fortified foods and nutritious biscuits for children and pregnant or nursing women. WFP has recommended a shift to a new product – Rice Soya Milk Blend – for children in nurseries to reduce stunting and wasting.

“Improving the diversity and quality of food provided through the child institution system is essential to improving children’s nutrition,” said WFP DPRK Country Director Dierk Stegen. “We want to produce Rice Soya Milk Blend but can only do so if we receive sufficient donor support.”

Despite a small reduction in the area planted, overall crop production in 2013/14 is estimated to increase due to generally favourable weather conditions that resulted in a higher rice crop.

The aggregate production from cooperative farms, plots on sloping land and household gardens estimated by the mission includes the 2013 main season harvest and the forecast for 2014 early season crops. Unusually early and heavy rains in July and early August compromised maize and soybean yields but had little effect on paddy.

The report estimated cereal import requirements at 340,000 metric tons for the 2013/14 marketing year (November/October). Assuming the official import target of 300,000 metric tons of cereals is met, there remains an uncovered food deficit of 40,000 metric tons for the current marketing year.

While this food gap is the narrowest in many years, it needs to be bridged either through additional purchases by the government and/or international support to avoid increased undernourishment during the current marketing year.

To improve food security and nutrition, the report recommends national and international support for sustainable farming practices, better price and market incentives for farmers and improvements in farm mechanization.

In nutrition, the report recommends that efforts should go toward improving dietary diversity and feeding practices for young children and women through strategies such as behavioural change, market reform and encouraging livestock and fish production; strengthening treatment of severe and moderate acute malnutrition; and better hygiene and sanitation practices.

ADDITIONAL INFORATION:

1. Here is a follow up report in 38 North by Randall Ireson.

2. Here is coverage in the Wall Street Journal and Assocaited Press.

3. High-Resolution photographs from DPRK can be downloaded here.

 

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ROK report claims DPRK luxury imports up

Monday, October 14th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

According to Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling Saenuri Party, imports of luxury goods reached US$645.8 million last year, up sharply from an annual import average of around $300 million tallied under the current leader’s father Kim Jong-il.

Citing data provided by the government ahead of the parliamentary audit on the Ministry of Unification, the lawmaker said the isolationist country imported such non-essential goods as pets, feed for such animals, and various European and U.S.-made bath, sauna and maternity products.

The report also showed a noticeable rise in imports of expensive musical instruments, cosmetic goods, handbags, leather products, watches, and mid-sized sedans made in Japan and China.

“The products were given as gifts to key figures in North Korean society to ensure their loyalty to the regime,” Yoon said. He claimed that handing out such gifts contrasted with the hardships felt by ordinary people.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said earlier in the month that North Korea remains one of the 34 countries in the world that require external assistance to properly feed their people.

It estimated that some 2.8 million “vulnerable” people in the communist country needed outside assistance at least until this year’s fall harvest.

The Saenuri lawmaker said that imports of wine, liquor, consumer electronics, fur products and expensive watches led the growth last year.

Imports of alcoholic beverages surpassed the $30 million mark, with electronics and watches reaching $37 million and $8.2 million, respectively, for the whole of last year, he said.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s luxury goods imports surge under Kim Jong-un leadership
Yonhap
2013-10-14

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UN WFP and FAO Report food shortages

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

According to Yonahp (via Global Post):

Eight out of 10 North Korean people are suffering from food shortages this year, with nearly 20 percent of children younger than five severely malnourished, a report by the U.N. food body has said.

According to the quarterly report the World Food Program (WFP) published on its assistance project for the communist country, 81 percent out of 115 households there were found to be in the category of “poor food consumption” or fall in the category between having adequate and poor food consumption in the second quarter of this year.

Of the surveyed, 76 percent coped with the crisis either by relying on support from others or eating cheaper food. Some 14 percent reduced their portions with 3 percent skipping meals, the report showed.

Thanks to Pyongyang’s increased food rations and the international organization’s aid, things have improved from a year earlier when 87 percent of the people surveyed suffered from shortages, according to the report.

The WFP’s earlier report showed that the North Korean government is providing more food rations to its people in 2013 than the previous year despite a drop in overseas aid. In the communist country, 66 percent of the total population, or about 16 million people, receive state food rations.

The agency, however, said the situation “remains fragile,” with the frequency of protein consumption “very low and unlikely meeting requirements.”

The WFP also said its visit to 120 pediatric hospitals found that 17 percent of the children under the age of five admitted to suffering from acute malnutrition.

Of the children admitted to hospitals, some 88 percent suffered from diarrhea, followed by 82 percent showing symptoms of respiratory infections and 49 percent indigestion, the report showed.

The WFP said it reached 1.46 million beneficiaries each month during the second quarter of the year, distributing a total of 10,489 metric tons of food. It also conducted 764 rounds of field visits to ensure its assistance arrived and was utilized properly.

According to Yonhap (via Global Post):

North Korea’s food procurement effort has been inadequate to cover the expected shortfall for this year, a media report based on data provided by an international agriculture agency said Friday.

The quarterly report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations showed Pyongyang has been able to secure 290,600 tons of various grains from abroad from November 2012 through June of this year, the Voice of America (VOA) said.

The Washington-based media outlet said the total is equal to just 57 percent of the 507,000 tons the North needs to secure by October to prevent a food shortage for its people.

The latest findings come a day after the World Food Program (WFP) claimed eight out of 10 North Koreans are suffering from food shortages this year, with nearly 20 percent of children younger than five severely malnourished.

The percentage of people suffering food shortages, however, fell from 87 percent tallied the year before, the WFP said.

Despite the risk of shortage, the North has been able to increase its daily food rations for its people in the first seven months of this year to 397 grams per person, up 14 grams from the year before.

North Korea watchers also said that with Pyongyang placing emphasis on strengthening its agricultural sector, there have been some improvements in food conditions in the country compared to the past.

As per usual, the articles provided neither the titles of the reports nor links. Many UN reports on the DPRK can be found on my DPRK Economic Statistics Page.

The UN is appealing for funding for its DPRK relief programs. According to Yonhap:

The United Nations on Thursday appealed for US$98 million from the international community to help North Koreans in need, saying its humanitarian projects there are drastically underfunded.

Of the overall funding requirement of $150 million for 2013, $98 million is still urgently needed for food and agricultural support, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, according to the global body.

“While the overall humanitarian situation has improved slightly over the last 12 months, the structural causes of people’s vulnerability persist,” U.N. Resident Coordinator Ghulam Isaczai said in an emailed statement. “External assistance continues to play a vital role in safeguarding the lives of millions whose food security, nutritional status and essential health needs would otherwise be seriously compromised.”

Around 16 million people of the 24 million population are chronically short on food, his office said.

For cereal alone, the cereal for the 2012-13 marketing year is estimated at 507,000 metric tons, with serious gaps remaining between recommended and actual nutrient intake, widely due also to a lack of dietary diversity, it said.

“Without sustained humanitarian support, the gains made the past 10 years in improving food security and the overall health and nutrition of the most vulnerable — children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and the elderly — could be quickly reversed,” said Isaczai.

He urged U.N. member states to draw a line between political and humanitarian issues, as efforts to denuclearize North Korea have been stalled for years.

“We hope that donors will respond quickly and generously to allow U.N. agencies to address the humanitarian situation,” he said. “Separating humanitarian needs from political issues is a prerequisite for a sustainable improvement in the condition of people.”

Read the full stories here:
80 pct of N. Koreans suffer food shortages: WFP
Yonahp (via Global Post)
2013-8-8

N. Korea food procurement effort inadequate to cover shortfalls: report
Yonhap (via Global Post)
2013-8-9

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UN agencies seeking additional funding for DPRK projects

Monday, April 29th, 2013

According to the AFP (Gulf Times):

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said they were feeling fallout from North Korea’s isolation.

“Even though the imposed sanctions clearly exclude humanitarian assistance, a negative impact on the levels of humanitarian funding has been experienced,” the agencies said in a statement.

The agencies said they had received just over a quarter of the $147mn they needed for operations in the North this year.

“As a result of the persisting deficit, agencies are unable to respond effectively to the humanitarian needs out of which the most critical and life-saving ones urgently require $29.4mn,” they added.

“The dire funding situation leaves the UN agencies and other humanitarian actors concerned about the continuation of their programmes” in isolated North Korea.

The agencies said there had been “a slight improvement” in the humanitarian situation in the past year. But Unicef said it was running short of cash for basic vaccines and medicines for child killers such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.

The UN estimates that about one-third of North Korean children under five are chronically malnourished.

More analysis in the Washington Post.

Read the full story here:
Aid to North Korea hit by sanctions
AFP
2013-4-29

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UN FAO/WFP crop and food security assessment report

Monday, November 12th, 2012

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) visited the DPRK from 2012-9-24 to 2012-10-18 (25 days). They assessed the 2012 main crop harvest; forecasted the 2013 production of winter and spring crop; estimated cereal import requirements for the 2012/13 marketing year (November/October); assessed the household food-security situation and estimated food assistance needs.

Read the full report here (PDF).

It is full of data/statistics and well worth reading. You can find even more information on my DPRK Economic Statistics Page.

Here is media coverage of the report: Associated Press 1, Associated Press 2Yonhap 1, Yonhap 2.

 

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UN estimates DPRK to secure 2m tons of rice in 2012

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

According to Yonhap:

A U.N. food agency has estimated that North Korea will secure 2 million tons of rice in 2012, up about 18 percent from last year, a news report said Wednesday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that the North produced 1.6 million tons of rice last fall and is expected to import 300,000 tons of rice and receive 100,000 tons of outside assistance, Washington-based Radio Free Asia reported, citing the FAO’s food outlook.

The Rome-based U.N. agency also estimated that North Korea’s per capita rice consumption is expected to increase to 72.3 kilograms between last year’s fall and summer of this year, up from 64 kilograms in the same period last year, the RFA said.

In February, the FAO said more than 3 million vulnerable people are estimated to face a food deficit as chronic food insecurity continues throughout North Korea.

The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s when it suffered a massive famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.

Marcus Noland has a piece here on global food prices.

Read the full story here:
U.N. estimates N. Korea to secure 2 million tons of rice this year
Yonhap
2012-5-9

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Food distribution to resume for the first time in seven years

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2012-1-25

A month into Kim Jong-un’s ascension to power, it is reported that food distribution is likely to resume nationwide in North Korea.

Many experts evaluate this as a symbolic measure to propagate the construction of a powerful economy and improve the lives of the people. For the North Koreans, the most apparent and obvious economic accomplishment is the improvement of the food situation. Thus, North Korea is most likely to take action to normalize food rations as its top priority.

According to a statement made by a South Korean government official on January 20, “Kim Jong-un and his leadership will begin the food distribution as a way to prove to its people about changes forthcoming in the new regime.”He also added, “After years of propagation for the building of a strong and prosperous nation, they must demonstrate it to the people with noticeable results.”

The amount of rations to be provided is still unclear. However, the source emphasized that it was very likely for rice rations to resume, especially with the approaching national holidays, such as the Lunar New Year and Kim Jong-il’s birthday (February 16).

He also commented that “the food distribution will be a nationwide movement and the food ration system will go into effect based on the distribution network of available food supply.”

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), North Korea’s food production in 2011 compared to the previous year rose by 8.5 percent, sitting at about 5.48 million tons (of rough grains or 4.66 million tons of milled grains).

The minimum amount of food consumption in North Korea is 5.4 million tons, but a shortage of about 400,000 tons is expected, including the international food aid and industrial food imports. Among the recent years, this marks the largest deficiency in food supply.

However, such shortages can be overcome with additional food imports and distributing mainly rice reserves.

The last national food distribution in North Korea was in 2005, seven years ago.

North Korea is also likely to exert more effort in food processing production to improve the distribution of daily necessities. With relatively little dependence on raw material imports, North Korea is planning to improve the food situation through expanding the food processing production in agricultural, fishery, and livestock industries, with less competition with Chinese products.

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DPRK 2011 food shortage debate compendium

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

UPDATE (2012-2-1): Karin Lee of the National Committee on North Korea wrote a great summary of the DPRK’s food situation in 2011:

In December 2010, North Korea began asking multiple countries for food aid. Its request to the U.S. came in early 2011, but it wasn’t until December 2011 that a deal seemed close, with the U.S. prepared to provide 240,000 metric tons (MTs) of assistance. Kim Jong Il died soon after this news hit the press, and details of the potential deal were never announced.

In the ideal world, Ronald Reagan’s “hungry child” knows no politics. But the case of North Korea is far from ideal. The U.S. government states it does not take politics into consideration when determining whether to provide aid to North Korea. Instead, the decision is based on three criteria: need in North Korea, competing demands for assistance, and the ability to monitor aid effectively. Yet these three criteria are subjective and tinged by politics.

In 2011 a succession of four assessment delegations (one by U.S. NGOs, one by the U.S. government, one by the EU and one by the UN) visited the DPRK. All found pretty much the same thing: widespread chronic malnutrition, especially among children and pregnant or lactating women, and cases of acute malnutrition. The UN confirmed the findings late last year, reporting chronic malnutrition in children under five in the areas visited — 33% overall, and 45% in the northern part of the country.

Some donors responded quickly. For example, shortly after its July assessment, the EU announced a 10 Million Euro donation. Following its own May assessment, however, the U.S. government was slow to make a commitment. Competing demands may have played a role. In July, the predicted famine in the Horn of Africa emerged, prompting a U.S. response of over $668 million in aid to “the worst food crisis in half a century.” While there was no public linkage between U.S. action on the African famine and inaction on North Korea, there could have been an impact.

But the two biggest factors shaping the U.S. government’s indecisiveness continued to be uncertainty about both the severity of the need and the ability to establish an adequate monitoring regime. At times, South Korean private and public actors questioned the extent of the North’s need. Early on, a lawmaker in South Korea asserted that North Korea already had stockpiled 1,000,000 metric tons of rice for its military. Human rights activist Ha Tae Keung argued that North Korea would use the aid contributed in 2011 to augment food distributions in 2012 in celebration of the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung and North Korea’s status as a “strong and prosperous nation.” According to Yonhap, shortly after the U.N. released the above-noted figures, South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik called the food situation in North Korea not “very serious.”

South Korea’s ambivalence about the extent of the food crisis was noted by Capitol Hill, exacerbating congressional reluctance to support food aid. A letter to Secretary Clinton sent shortly before the U.S. assessment trip in May began with Senators Lieberman, McCain, Webb and Kyl explaining they shared South Korean government suspicions that food aid would be stockpiled and requesting State to “rigorously” evaluate any DPRK request for aid. With the close ROK-U.S. relationship one of the administration’s most notable foreign policy accomplishments, such a warning may have carried some weight.

Monitoring is of equal, if not greater congressional concern. Since the 1990s U.S. NGOs and USAID have worked hard with DPRK counterparts to expand monitoring protocols, and conditions have consistently improved over time. In the 2008/2009 program, the first food program funded by the U.S. government since 2000, the DPRK agreed to provisions such as Korean-speaking monitors. The NGO portion of the program was fairly successful in implementing the monitoring protocol; when implementation of the WFP portion hit some bumps, USAID suspended shipments to WFP until issues could be resolved. The DPRK ended the program prematurely in March 2009 with 330,000 MT remaining.

In 2011 the Network for North Korean Human Rights and Democracy conducted a survey of recent defectors to examine “aid effectiveness” in the current era. Out of the 500 interviewees, 274 left the DPRK after 2010. However, only six were from provinces where NGOs had distributed aid in 2008/2009. Disturbingly, of the 106 people interviewees who had knowingly received food aid, 29 reported being forced to return food. Yet the report doesn’t state their home towns, or when the events took place. Unfortunately such incomplete data proves neither the effectiveness nor ineffectiveness of the most recent monitoring regime.

Some believe that adequate monitoring is impossible. The House version of the 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Act included an amendment prohibiting the use of Food for Peace or Title II funding for food aid to North Korea; the amendment was premised on this belief. However the final language signed into law in November called for “adequate monitoring,” not a prohibition on funding.

The U.S. response, nine months in the making, reflects the doubts outlined above and the politically challenging task of addressing them. It took months for the two governments to engage in substantive discussions on monitoring after the May trip. In December, the State Department called the promised nutritional assistance “easier to monitor” because items such as highly fortified foods and nutritional supplements are supposedly less desirable and therefore less likely to be diverted than rice. The reported offer of 240,000 MT– less than the 330,000 MT the DPRK requested – reflects the unconfirmed report that the U.S. identified vulnerable populations but not widespread disaster.

In early January, the DPRK responded. Rather than accepting the assistance that was under discussion, it called on the United States to provide rice and for the full amount, concluding “We will watch if the U.S. truly wants to build confidence.” While this statement has been interpreted positively by some as sign of the new Kim Jong Un regime’s willingness to talk, it also demonstrates a pervasive form of politicization – linkage. A “diplomatic source” in Seoul said the December decision on nutritional assistance was linked to a North Korean pledge to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Linkage can be difficult to avoid, and the long decision-making process in 2011 may have exacerbated the challenge. Although Special Representative Glyn Davies was quick to state that “there isn’t any linkage” between the discussion of nutritional assistance and dialogue on security issues, he acknowledged that the ability of the DPRK and US to work together cooperatively on food assistance would be interpreted as a signal regarding security issues. Meanwhile, the hungry child in North Korea is still hungry.

UPDATE 75 (2011-12-5): The ROK will donate US$5.65 million to N. Korea through the UN. According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Monday it will donate US$5.65 million (about 6.5 billion won) for humanitarian projects in North Korea through the U.N. body responsible for the rights of children.

The donation to the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, will benefit about 1.46 million infants, children and pregnant women in North Korea, according to the Unification Ministry, which is in charge of relations with the North.

Seoul’s contribution will be used to provide vaccines and other medical supplies as well as to treat malnourished children next year, said the ministry.

There have been concerns that a third of all North Korean children under five are chronically malnourished and that many more children are at risk of slipping into acute stages of malnutrition unless targeted assistance is sustained.

“The decision is in line with the government’s basic stance of maintaining its pure humanitarian aid projects for vulnerable people regardless of political situation,” Unification Ministry spokesman Choi Boh-seon told reporters.

South Korea has been seeking flexibility in its policies toward the North to try to improve their strained relations over the North’s two deadly attacks on the South last year.

Despite the South’s softer stance, North Korea recently threatened to turn Seoul’s presidential office into “a sea of fire” in response to South Korea’s military maneuvers near the tense western sea border.

South Korea donated $20 million for humanitarian projects in North Korea through the UNICEF between 1996 and 2009.

Last month, the South also resumed some $6.94 million worth of medical aid to the impoverished communist country through the World Health Organization.

Separately, South Korea also decided to give 2.7 billion won ($2.3 million) to a foundation to help build emergency medical facilities in an industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

UPDATE 74 (2011-12-2): The Choson Ilbo reports that the DPRK’s food prices are rising after the 2011 fall harvest, however, the price increase is not due to a shortage of output, but rather political directives. According to the article:

The price of rice in North Korea is skyrocketing, contrary to received wisdom that it drops after the harvest season. According to a source on North Korea on Wednesday, the rice price has risen from 2,400 won a kg in early October to 5,000 won in late November.

North Korean workers earn only 3,000-4,000 won per month.

This unusual hike in rice price seems to be related to preparation of next year’s political propaganda projects.

A South Korean government official said, “It seems the North Korean government is not releasing rice harvested this year in order to save it up” for celebrations of regime founder Kim Il-sung’s centenary next year, when the North has vowed to become “a powerful and prosperous nation.”

UPDATE 73 (2011-11-24): According to the Daily NK, DPRK television is calling on people to conserve food:

With barely a month left until 2012, the year in which people were promised a radical lifestyle transformation to coincide with the North Korea’s rebirth as a ‘strong and prosperous nation’, programs calling upon people to conserve food are now being broadcast by Chosun Central TV and the fixed-line cable broadcaster ‘3rd Broadcast’.

Chosun Central TV is broadcasting the programs as part of ‘Socio-Culture and Lifestyle Time’, which begins directly after the news on Thursdays at 8:40pm. The majority of the content is apparently now about saving food.

A Yangkang Province source told The Daily NK on Wednesday, “Recently the head lecturer from Jang Cheol Gu Pyongyang Commercial University, Dr. Seo Young Il, has been appearing on the program both on television and the cable broadcasting system, talking about saving food.”

In one such program, Professor Seo apparently noted, “In these days of the military-first era there is a new culture blossoming, one which calls for a varied diet,” before encouraging citizens to eat potatoes and rice, wild vegetables and rice and kimchi and rice rather than white rice on its own, and then adding that bread and wheat flour noodles are better than rice for lunch and dinner.

It is understood that older programs with titles such as ‘A Balanced Diet is Excellent Preparation for Saving Food’ and ‘Cereals with Rice: Good for Your Health’ are also being rebroadcast, while watchers are being informed that thinking meat is required for a good diet is ‘incorrect’.

Whenever North Korea is on high alert or there is a directive to be handed down from Kim Jong Il, both of Chosun Central TV and the 3rd Broadcast are used to communicate with the public. For this reason, some North Korea watchers believe the recent food-saving campaign may reflect a particularly weak food situation in the country going into the winter.

According to the source, one recent program showed a cookery competition involving members of the Union of Democratic Women from Pyongyang’s Moranbong District. During which, one woman was filmed extolling the virtues of potato soup, saying “If we follow the words of The General and try eating potatoes as a staple food, there will be no problem.”

Read all previous posts on the DPRK’s food situation this year blow:

(more…)

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