Despite recent improved harvests the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will not have enough food to feed its people next year, putting millions of people at risk, according to two United Nations agencies.
In joint press statement from their headquarters in Rome, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said, “A combination of insufficient domestic production, the narrow and inadequate diet of much of the population and growing disparities in access to food as the purchasing power of many households declines, means that some 6.5 million vulnerable North Koreans will require assistance next year.”
The agencies said “the situation remains especially precarious for young children, pregnant and nursing women and many elderly people.”
According to a joint study, the projected domestic cereal availability in the 2003-04 marketing season will be up 4.7 per cent up from the 2002-03 estimate. The improvements were attributed to favourable weather, a relatively low incidence of crop pests and diseases, increased application of donated fertilizer and better irrigation.
The agencies estimated that after domestic harvests, commercial imports, and already committed aid imports, the DPRK would still face a food and seed gap of 404,000 tons.
“Despite evidence of improved nutritional levels in recent years, malnutrition rates remain alarmingly high. Four out of 10 young children suffer from chronic malnutrition, or stunting, according to a large-scale, random sample survey conducted in October 2002 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WFP,” the statement said.
“Rations from the Public Distribution System, a primary source of food for the 70 per cent of North Korea’s 23 million people living in urban areas, are set to decline to no more than 300 grams per person per day in 2004, from 319 grams this year, according to government authorities. The present allocation ensures only half of an individual's caloric requirements,” the agencies’ statement said.