Starvation on the Rise in DPR Korea

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Sixteen million people continue to suffer from chronic food insecurity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Reports say nearly a third of children under age 5 show signs of undernourishment, particularly in rural areas where food is scarce.

North Korea is reportedly not producing enough food to feed its 24 million people, and relies on limited purchases of food as well as outside donations to make up the shortfall. Around two million people in the country’s most food insecure areas are currently receiving nutritious food assistance from outside donations.

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A nursery home near Pyongyang with children suffering from malnutrition. UN Photo/James Bu

To respond to the critical humanitarian needs of the North Koreans, the United Nations seeks $198 million to address the current food insecurity engulfing the country.

According to the UN Resident Coordinator in the DPRK Jerome Sauvage, inadequate medical supplies and equipment make the health care system unable to meet basic needs, while the water and heating systems need to be rehabilitated.

The Overview Funding Document which outlines the funding needs for the UN’s humanitarian activities in DPRK, was presented to the international donor community in Beijing and in Pyongyang last week.

The documents describes the current situation and the efforts being made to improve it in food and nutritional assistance, agricultural support and interventions in the water, sanitation, hygiene and health sectors.

According to the Resident Coordinators’ office, about 10,300 children will be treated for severe acute malnutrition and 57,000 for moderate acute malnutrition.

Mr. Sauvage stresses that external assistance is still needed and continues to play a vital role in safeguarding and promoting the well-being of millions whose food security.

The UN in DPRK remains seriously underfunded, he added.

“Separating humanitarian needs from political issues is a prerequisite for a sustainable improvement in the condition of people.” -Mr. Sauvage

In November 2011, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for funding to assist millions of people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), particularly children and women, who are at risk of becoming severely malnourished.

The agency, which has been working in DPRK for over 25 years, has requested $20.4 million for its emergency response for this year but has only received $4.6 million, it stated in a news release. Other agencies working in the country are facing similar funding shortfalls.

According to UNICEF reports, maternal under-nutrition is of great concern, as over a quarter of women in DPRK aged 15 to 49 are under-nourished.

This puts them at greater risk of delivering infants with low birth weight who are at higher risk of mortality and diseases, increasing widespread chronic malnutrition with catastrophic long-term effects on children’s development.

In 2011, the UN launched an appeal for the country in April after reports of a worsening food crisis. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only about 27 per cent of the $218.7 million that the UN agencies requested has been received in 2011.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.