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WFP says funding shortfall for NKorea food aid

WFP says funding shortfall for NKorea food aid

The U.N. food agency said Wednesday a lack of international funding and new restrictions by North Korea on its staff and where it can operate has left it unable to reach millions of hungry women and children in the impoverished country.
The World Food Program said it had received only 15 percent of the US$504 million it needs to feed 6.2 million vulnerable North Koreans as the food situation worsens during a lean growing season before the November harvest.
The agency launched its current humanitarian food program in October 2008, but the lack of funds meant it was reaching only 1.7 million people, said Torben Due, the WFP's representative for North Korea.
"It is amongst the lowest (number) we're ever had in the DPRK," Due told a news conference in Beijing, using the official name for North Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
In the mid-1990s the agency reached up to 7 million people, he said. It is estimated by the U.N. that overall 8.7 million people need food aid in North Korea.
Due said the agency had noticed an increased number of children referred to hospitals in the country for malnutrition, but he did not have specific figures.
"There's a need to do more, and that's why we are asking these donor countries for more," he said.
Communist North Korea has relied on foreign assistance to feed its 23 million people since the mid-1990s when its economy was hit by natural disasters coupled with the loss of the regime's Soviet benefactor.
Due would not give a reason for the funding shortfall, but said he understood that donors may be responding to the political situation in North Korea. The WFP has received no contributions after North Korea carried out a nuclear test in May, he said. That test drew international condemnation and garnered U.N. sanctions.
Due said according to the WFP's information, there have been no changes to China's food and oil assistance to North Korea. China is Pyongyang's closest ally and largest source of fuel and food aid.
Adding to the funding shortfall the North Korean government told the agency in May that it can no longer have Korean-speaking international staff, which has reduced the number of staff in the WFP's Pyongyang office to 16 from the 59 agreed upon last June. He did not give a reason for the change.
He said that starting last month the agency has been allowed to operate only in 57 counties in the country, rather than the previous 131 counties.


Updated : 2021-06-21 11:46 GMT+08:00