Archive for the ‘UNICEF’ Category

ROK aid to DPRK up 26% in 2013

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

South Korea has sent 17.8 billion won (US$16.7 million) in humanitarian aid to North Korea in 2013, a 26 percent increase from last year, despite the spike in cross-border tensions, the Seoul government said Sunday.

In a report released by the Ministry of Unification, the total amount of aid sent to the communist country, including money donated to international organizations, represents a 26 percent increase from 14.1 billion won offered in 2012.

“Despite criticisms that Seoul has not done enough to help the disadvantaged in the North, the incumbent Park Geun-hye administration has sent more aid to Pyongyang than what was shipped last year when President Lee Myung-bak was in office,” a government official said.

The official, who did not wish to be identified, pointed out that while critics have said the amount is small, people have to take into account the overall aid offered. North conducted its third nuclear test in February and threatened pre-emptive strikes against Seoul and Washington, seriously souring cross-border ties.

Fifteen local charity groups including the Eugene Bell Foundation and Korea Sharing Net provided 4.3 billion won, or a little over 24.1 percent of all aid to the North, with the rest coming from the South Korean government.

Seoul donated 13.5 billion won to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund since President Park took office in late February.

Moving forward, the official said South Korea has no plans to provide direct food aid to the North but that it may consider offering matching funds to private charity organizations wanting to help the North.

The source said while Seoul has no plans to ease its so-called May 24 sanctions that ban all nonhumanitarian economic and social exchanges with the North, it has exercised flexibility and permitted limited cross-border contacts and transactions.

Seoul implemented the ban after it accused the North of sinking one of its warships in the seas off their west coast in 2010. The incident claimed the lives of 46 South Korean sailors.

“The policy of flexibility existed in the past and is nothing new,” he said.

Read the full story here:
S. Korean aid to N. Korea grows 26 pct in 2013 on-year
Yonhap
2013-11-17

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UN to give DPRK US$2.1m in flood aid

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

The United Nations has decided to provide more than US$2 million in emergency relief to flood-stricken North Korea this year, a news report said Wednesday.

According to the Voice of America, the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund allocated a total of about US$2.1 million in “Rapid Response Grants” following reports of heavy flood damage in the communist country.

The U.N. had said earlier that $5.8 million will be needed to help the flood victims in the North.

The relief aid will be conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Program (WFP), the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF, it said.

The WHO will use the money to send clean water to people affected by floods, and the WFP will provide food aid to expectant mothers. The UNICEF will also provide medicine and vaccines to the communist state.

A report by the U.N. released in August claimed there was an outbreak of a waterborne epidemic in the country.

Exact information on North Korea is hard to come by, but the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that some 33 people were killed, 18 reported missing and 50,000 displaced by this summer’s flooding that affected large parts of the country.

Read the full story here:
U.N. to give N. Korea US$2.1 mln in flood aid: report
Yonhap
2013-9-18

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2013 DPRK aid update

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

According to Yonhap (via Global Post):

The Washington-based Voice of America said the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has set aside US$1.07 million this year for repairing 14 schools and kindergartens in the communist country, in addition to buying textbooks and school supplies for 350,000 North Korean children.

“Our school is 33 years old and has not had any large-scale renovations,” Ri Kyong-hui, a school principal in North Hwanghae Province, was quoted as saying. “Thanks to the new windows (supplied by UNICEF), our classrooms are 5 degrees warmer in the winter, which the students really appreciate.”

North Korea was slapped with tougher U.N. sanctions earlier this year for conducting a satellite launch in December and a nuclear test in February, stoking concerns that the move may affect relief efforts there.

Danish humanitarian group Mission East, however, said the health of 750 children at three orphanages in North Hwanghae Province has significantly improved following its food assistance program that began last summer.

Earlier this month, the German branch of the international Catholic relief group Caritas said it has vaccinated 430,000 North Korean children against Japanese encephalitis, with the French government weighing in with its own $500,000 aid this year.

Some humanitarian groups, however, reported roadblocks in carrying out relief efforts in the isolated country.

The World Food Program told Radio Free Asia earlier this week that a lack of donation has pushed it to scale down its food aid to North Korea by 85 percent. The U.N. food agency has halted operations in June at five of its 14 food factories in the North due to grain shortages.

Read the full story here:
Int’l community continues aid to N. Korea despite sanctions
Yonhap (via Global Post)
2013-7-17

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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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Lee Myung-bak administration sets the lowest record for assistance to North Korea

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern studies (IFES)
2013-1-31

The total amount of assistance provided to North Korea by the South Korean government and private organizations in 2012 decreased by 28 percent against 2011, which marks six years of continuous decline.

The Ministry of Unification revealed on January 27 that the total amount of South Korean assistance to North Korea tallied 14.1 billion KRW (13 million USD), with 2.3 billion KRW (2.12 million USD) of government aid for vaccines and medical trainings and 11.8 billion KRW (10.89 million USD) from the private sector for medical supplies. This is a 28.1 percent drop from the previous year’s total of 1.96 billion KRW (18.09 million USD).

The South Korean government sent about 6.5 billion KRW (6 million USD) of medical supplies to North Korea via UNICEF and the private sector sent about 13.1 billion KRW (12.1 million USD) of malaria prevention supplies, powdered milk, soy milk, and flour.

Last year was the lowest record for humanitarian assistance to North Korea in sixteen years. Prior to this low was 1996, which recorded 3.6 billion KRW (3.3 million USD).

Lee Myung-bak administration’s aid to North Korea for the last five years reached a total of 257.5 billion KRW (236.2 million USD), with 102.4 billion KRW (93.94 million USD) in government funds and 155.1 billion KRW (142.3 million USD) from the private sector. This is equal to only 20 percent of the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s 1.275 trillion KRW (1.17 billion USD), and 44 percent of the Kim Dae-jung administration’s 582.9 billion KRW (534.8 million USD) of total aid to North Korea.

The highest record for South Korean humanitarian aid to North Korea was in 2006 at 298 billion KRW (273.4 million USD), in both government and private sector aid and continued to remain at a high level in 2007 with 289 billion KRW (265.1 million USD) in 2007. However, with the launch of the Lee Myung-bak government in 2008, it dropped to 116 billion KRW (106 million USD), and continued the downward slide recording 67.1 billion KRW (61.6 million USD) in 2009; 40.4 billion KRW (37.06 million USD) in 2010; 19.1 billion KRW in 2011 (17.5 million USD); and 14.1 billion KRW (12.9 million USD) in 2012.

The source of the drop in humanitarian assistance can be attributed to deadlocked inter-Korean relations followed by the shooting death of a Mount Kumgang tourist in 2008; long-range rocket launch and second nuclear test in 2009; and Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island incidents in 2010.

From 1995 to 2012, the total amount of humanitarian aid to North Korea from the South Korean government was 1.48 trillion KRW (1.36 billion USD) and from the private sector was 871 billion KRW (799.1 million USD), equating to about 2.347 trillion KRW (2.15 billion USD) in total.

Meanwhile, international humanitarian aid to North Korea increased 30 percent in 2012 against the previous year. According to the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), total aid to North Korea in 2012 was 113 million USD while the previous year reached 89.2 million USD. It quadrupled to the total amount, 24.4 million USD of 2010.

Nineteen countries joined in the effort to provide humanitarian aid to North Korea such as South Korea, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Russia, Brazil, and Sweden. In 2010, there were only six countries, and it later increased to seventeen countries in 2011. The OCHA announced that the humanitarian aid provided in 2012 focused mainly on improving the food supply and nutrition, and provided agricultural support.

UPDATE: Here is a similar report in Yonhap (2013-1-27):

South Korea’s humanitarian aid to North Korea dropped 28 percent to a record 16-year low last year, the unification ministry said Sunday, as the cross-border relations remained chilled under Seoul’s outgoing government of President Lee Myung-bak.

Seoul’s humanitarian aid to the impoverished North totaled 14.1 billion won (US$13.1 million), compared with 19.6 billion won a year earlier. Last year’s amount is the lowest since 1996 when only 3.6 billion won was provided to the North in humanitarian aid.

The sharp drop came as relations between the two Koreas remained frozen since the North sank a South Korean warship near their Yellow Sea border in March 2010 and then shelled a border island in November that year. Pyongyang’s nuclear test and rocket launches also affected their ties.

The total amount of assistance the South provided the North during the five years of President Lee was 257.5 billion won, including 155.1 billion won of civilian aid. The total amount is only 20 percent of the aid sent during the presidency of Lee’s predecessor, the former late President Roh Moo-hyun.

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UNICEF: DPRK Preliminary Report of the National Nutrition Survey 2012

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Download the full report (PDF) here.

I have also added it to my “DPRK Economic Statistics Page”.

Here is the Executive Summary:

The last nationwide survey including nutrition indicators was the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) carried out in 2009. It showed that 32.4% of children

The present survey was therefore needed to update the indicators for the population nutritional status. All 10 provinces have been included. Data collection was done from September 17th to October 17th 2012.

The methodology is based on SMART and MICS surveys. It is a clustered, stratified by provinces, two-stage sampling survey. The target population includes children under 5 and their mothers. The sample size per province is 400 children in Pyongyang municipality and 812 children in all other provinces for most indicators.

Chronic malnutrition, despite a modest drop since MICS 2009 (from 32.3% to 27.9% at national level) remains in the ranges labelled ‟medium‟. Stunting has irreversible impact on the development of children as a result on the Country development. The prevention of stunting in early life (starting during or even before pregnancy) as well as the prevention of anaemia in mothers and their children (mainly those under 2 years old) through different multi-sectoral interventions combining nutrition, health, WASH, social protection, food security and agriculture requires more efforts and resources.

The survey also shows a picture of the acute nutritional status of children modestly improved since 2009. The situation is not critical and does not suggest emergency operations. However, attentions need to be paid to such factors as essential medicines, WASH situation and food security which affect the vulnerable children. The presence of acute malnutrition in women is also of concern. Programmes like the management of acute malnutrition at hospital and community levels (CMAM) need to be continued and expanded. Provision of nutritious food for children at institutions should also continue. On-going monitoring of the nutritional situation is important to identify the trends and changes in the situation and bring support as soon as possible when the situation is negatively changing.

In reference to the MDG 1, the achievement in decreasing underweight over time (from 60.6% in 1998 (MICS1 to 15.5% in the actual survey), as well as chronic and acute malnutrition, are primarily due to concerted efforts between the Government, the UN Agencies and others partners in DPRK in addressing the different causes of malnutrition. But malnutrition still remains and requires continued and strengthened interventions on chronic and acute malnutrition in order to have more impact on the underweight prevalence and to ensure a more optimal growth to the children.

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DPRK elderly population to double in next 40 years

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

The UN believes that North Korea’s elderly population will double in the next 40 years, casting an economic shadow over the country’s future.

The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) revealed over the weekend that 13% of the population of the country, approximately 3.32 million, is currently over 60, but that it believes this will double to 23% of the population, 6.12 million, by 2050.

Meanwhile, the number of people over 80 will increase by more than 2.5 times, UNFPA believes.

At the same time, UNICEF announced last April that North Korea’s young population will greatly reduce, with just 3 million people in their teens by 2050, a reduction of 24% over today’s number.

Northeast Asia has the fastest-aging population in the world; more than 30% of the world’s population over 65 is said to be living in the Northeast Asian region encompassing South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

You can read and analyze the DPRK census data here and here.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s Population Ageing Fast
Daily NK
Kim Tae-hong
2012-10-4

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ROK spending on inter-Korean projects lowest since 2000

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

According to the Korea Herald:

South Korea’s government last year executed the smallest amount of its inter-Korean cooperation fund in a decade, officials said Sunday, in another reflection of frayed relations with the communist North Korea.

The Unification Ministry, in charge of North Korean affairs, spent 42.6 billion won ($36.6 million), or 4.2 percent of the 1.1 trillion won fund designated as “South-North Cooperation Fund,” the ministry officials said.

The fund was used to support a Korean dictionary project, a humanitarian program by the United Nations Children‘s Fund as well as operating a facility for family reunions and an association for the inter-Korean industrial complex, they said.

Last year’s spending was the lowest level since 2000 when the two sides held their landmark summit talks and agreed on a wide range of cooperation projects as part of their reconciliation efforts.

Inter-Korean relations went to the lowest ebb in a decade after the North‘s two deadly provocations in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

In 2008, when President Lee Myung-bak took office with a hard-line stance on North Korea’s nuclear program, the cooperation fund‘s execution rate plunged to 18.1 percent from 82.2 percent in 2007 under the liberal predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, the report noted.

The rate had remained at the 7 percent level between 2009 and 2010, it said.

The fund was created in 1991 to support humanitarian and economic exchanges between the divided Koreas, which remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce. (Yonhap News)

Read the full story here:
Gov’t spending on inter-Korean projects lowest since 2000: ministry
Korea Herald
2012-1-8

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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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UN WFP / UNICEF launch DPRK program

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

UPDATE 1 (2011-5-3): The Korea Herald offers some more information on the mission:

The World Food Program will increase its personnel residing in North Korea to tighten monitoring of the distribution of donated food, a U.S.-funded radio station reported Tuesday.

The plan comes as the U.N. agency prepares to launch an emergency operation to help feed 3.5 million starving North Koreans by providing 310,000 tons of food within the next year.

The WFP plans to keep 59 agents in the North, an increase from the previous 10. Up to 60 percent of these agents will be tasked with checking whether the food goes to ordinary people rather than the military in the impoverished state, according to the Voice of America.

Pyongyang’s reclusive Kim Jong-il regime has often refused to let outsiders monitor its food distribution process, triggering suspicions that most of the outside aid is being used to feed its army and political elite.

Apparently getting more desperate for outside assistance, the North has agreed to let the WFP agents monitor its food situations in some 400 regions every month, the U.N. body said.

South Korea and the U.S., which remain lukewarm toward resuming full-scale food aid to Pyongyang, suspect that the Kim regime may be stockpiling rice to prepare for potential war or to release on the 100th anniversary of its late founder Kim Il-sung next year.

While the WFP has been calling on the international community to donate 434,000 tons of food to feed starving North Koreans, the two traditional allies also question the accuracy of the assessment made based on Pyongyang’s own statistics on its harvest and rationing.

Among the newly dispatched agents, 12 can speak fluent Korean, the U.S. radio station said, quoting WFP officials.

A total of seven offices, including one in the capital Pyongyang, will open during the emergency operation period, with food being distributed in eight provinces and 109 districts in the North, it added.

In a recent statement, the WFP had stressed that the aid operation in the authoritarian single-party state “will include the highest standards of monitoring and control to ensure that food gets to where it is needed.”

ORIGINAL POST (2011-5-1): According to the UN press release:

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today announced plans to introduce emergency operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to feed an estimated 3.5 million people in desperate need after crop losses and a particularly bitter winter.

Women and children will be the focus of the one-year WFP operation, which follows an assessment by several aid agencies of food security inside the DPRK, according to a press release issued by the agency. The operation is expected to cost just over $200 million.

UNICEF has launched a $20 million appeal to fund assistance programmes in the five DPRK provinces with the highest rates of malnutrition and in other counties with similar problems.

Although WFP said overall rates of acute malnutrition have not yet reached crisis levels, it warned that the situation could deteriorate rapidly if there is any further reduction in the food intake of those in need.

Many families have already resorted to cutting out the size or number of meals each day, and Government-supplied rations provide only about half of a person’s daily food needs.

“We face a critical window to get supplies into the country and reach the millions who are already hungry,” said Amir Abdulla, WFP’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer.

“Our primary concern is for those who are most vulnerable to shocks in the food supply – children, mothers, the elderly and large families.”

WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella told reporters in Geneva that the assessment found that the severe winter this year had damaged a large proportion of the seed potato stocks needed to plant the next crop.

The vegetable harvest late last year was also down 44 per cent on the expected volume, she said.

Under the operation WFP will provide cereals and the ingredients for the local production of such foods as corn-soy milk, rice-milk blend and high-nutrient biscuits through a public distribution system.

International staff working for the agency will make more than 400 visits each month to provincial markets and distribution points during the operation, and will only have to give 24 hours’ notice to local authorities.

The operation will continue through the harvest expected in October, with specialized nutritious products expected to be distributed then. WFP aims to procure food from neighbouring countries so that it can be distributed as fast as possible.

“WFP has worked in the DPRK for 15 years and we will be drawing on all that experience and expertise to ensure this operation provides vital, timely food and nutrition to those who cannot support themselves through these difficult months,” Mr. Abdulla noted.

UNICEF’s assistance programme will tackle behavioural and structural issues, such as hygiene, infant feeding practices, water and sanitation, as well as direct nutritional needs, agency spokesperson Marixie Mercado said.

Its operation will target more than 400,000 young children and an estimated 165,000 pregnant or lactating women, regarded as among the most vulnerable groups in the current crisis.

Ms. Mercado said the programme will also aim to help children living permanently in institutions as they do not have extended families from which to draw support.

A survey carried out in 2009 found that 32 per cent of DPRK children were stunted, with even higher rates in some rural areas.

Additionally, Greta Van Susteren (Fox News) has announced that she is returning to the DPRK soon.  She always travels with Samaritan’s Purse, so they will probably be launching a program in the DPRK as well. (SMALL UPDATE: Samaritan’s Purse announced they are launching a program)  Wouln’t it be nice if they got get to see Jun, the American detained in the DPRK–reportedly for clandestine evangelism.

The South Korean and US governments have hesitated in providing food aid this spring but they seem to be allowing limited private aid.

There is some debate as to how severe the food shortage is and what should/could be done about it.  Articles from all sides of the debate are cataloged here.

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