Reduced funding may force UN agency to stop work in DPR of Korea
With donations to its emergency fund for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) having fallen off, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today said it would have to stop distributing rations to nearly 4 million people over the next two months.
“This downturn in donations has resulted in a critical shortfall for our operation. It will aggravate the considerable suffering of the DPRK’s most vulnerable children, women and elderly people,” WFP Regional Director for Asia Tony Banbury said.
“By August, just 12,000 children in hospitals and orphanages will be receiving WFP cereals. It’s never been this bad. We need fresh pledges now if our efforts to alleviate hunger and reduce malnutrition are not to be seriously compromised.”
WFP, the largest humanitarian agency in the DPRK, appealed for 504,000 tons of commodities, valued at $202 million, to help feed 6.5 million North Koreans, but has received 230,000 tons, which is almost all finished.
Its supply reduction would come on top of a cut in the amount of food the Government provides to the 70 per cent of the 23.5 million people living in urban areas. In January the Public Distribution System ration of subsidized cereals was reduced from an average of 300 grams per person a day to 250 grams, or just 40 per cent of the internationally recommended minimum calorie intake. Local officials say a further cut to 200 grams is likely soon.
The average monthly wage of an urban worker is now equivalent to $1.50, while the prices of basic food items have skyrocketed. The market price of rice has trebled and that of corn has quadrupled, WFP said.
“Generous bilateral aid from South Korea helps to narrow the North’s sizeable food shortfall,” Mr. Banbury said.
He praised Seoul’s resumption last week of much-needed fertilizer supplies and the transfer since 2001 of 1.2 million tons of rice in the form of concessional, Government-to-Government loans.
“The Government here has also been very supportive of WFP’s vital work in the DPRK, committing 100,000 tons of maize annually for the past four years. Our very careful targeting ensures that it goes to those who need it most – the hungriest of the hungry. At this time of critical need, we are again turning to the South Korean Government and asking for their help,” he said.