UN World Food Program worried about DPRK

According to Reuters:

Countries appear even less willing to give following North Korea’s second nuclear test in May, Torben Due, the U.N. World Food Programme representative in North Korea, told a news conference in Beijing.

“It’s a very sensitive area. I understand to a certain extent why donors are questioning,” he said. “But my angle is as a humanitarian. Being a humanitarian organisation you should look at the needs of the people. WFP does not engage in the political part of it.”

Due said no new donations had been received following that second test.

An appeal for more than $500 million in food aid has been just 15 percent met, meaning a planned relief operation to reach 6.2 million people has been scaled back to target 2 million.

Due, who lives in Pyongyang and was passing through the Chinese capital, told of the human toll of the state’s struggling economy and international seclusion, with mothers and children stunted by starvation.

“We are now in the middle of the lean season in North Korea, where food supplies are low and it’s a very difficult situation for many people in the country,” he said.

“But more importantly it should be noted that we have a situation where a very large part of the population has been undernourished for 15 or 20 years.”

In some parts of North Korea, some women weigh just 45 kg (99 lb) when they give birth, he added, citing a medical survey.

“The children that survive these conditions will be born with compromised immune systems … and that will contribute to their stunting,” Due said. “It’s a problem which goes from one generation to the next.”

Given the DPRK’s prerogatives, however, the US is not inclined to send food aid.  According to the Associated Press:

The United States said Wednesday it is “very concerned” about the North Korean people but cannot send needed food aid without assurances from their Stalinist government that it will reach them.

“We currently have no plans to provide additional food aid to North Korea and any additional food would have to have assurances that it would be appropriately used,” Kelly told reporters.

“We remain very concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people,” the spokesman said.

“But we are very concerned because we need to have an adequate program management in place, monitoring and access provisions and we don’t have that right now,” he added.

He recalled that in March North Korea expelled non-governmental organization (NGO) monitors in line with its decision to reject US food aid.

“At that time we had about 22,000 metric tonnes in storage there. We’ve learned that the DPRK (North Korean) has distributed this food,” Kelly said. 

I have not seen any food prices from North Korean markets in a while.  If anyone has come across any, please send them to me. 

Recent defectors offer a more nuanced account:

The food supply in the North may have improved slightly in the past two years due to better weather, but Jo said food still is hard to come by. “Even last year, we had a campaign in Kangwon province of getting by with two meals a day. Soldiers sometimes would just get three potatoes a day.”

There is a thriving market economy in North Korea at the local level where the average person buys food staples and consumer goods often made in China. Private plots of land are increasingly used for providing food for one’s family, said Cho Myungchul, a researcher who was an economist in the North before defecting to the South 15 years ago. (Reuters)

Read more here:
U.N. says North Korea food aid has dried up
Reuters
Ben Blanchard
7/1/2009

US cannot send food aid to NKorea despites its concerns
AFP
6/1/2009

Life in North Korea: lies, potatoes and cable TV
Reuters
Jack Kim
7/1/2009

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2 Responses to “UN World Food Program worried about DPRK”

  1. […] Read the rest here:  North Korean Economy Watch » Blog Archive » UN World Food Program … […]

  2. Jess says:

    The food situation has improved modestly in the DPRK, but the meager 2 million hectares of poor arable land and cold climate will never quite be able to feed 24 million people, the only hope for long term food security is to follow South Korea’s example and export manufactures in exchange for food. According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s estimates for the 08/09 season, rice yields have risen to 4.89 T/ha. and total production has reached 2.89 Million Tons. Together with corn, wheat, and soybean production (in declining order of importance) this should provide 4.83 million tons of grains, or 200 kg per capita, plus whatever can be imported. This situation of relative food security is at best temporary, but has nonetheless allowed the regime to jeopardize food aid by pushing for better negotiating positions with hostile rhetoric and actions.