Worsening food shortages in DPR Korea spark warning from UN agencies

22 December 2006

United Nations humanitarian agencies today expressed concern about worsening food shortages in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), where so many millions of people are already undernourished that at least one in three children are stunted as a result.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) say they are each facing serious funding shortfalls that could affect the level of services they can provide to the DPRK’s inhabitants.

UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told journalists in Geneva that Pyongyang’s decision to not accept humanitarian aid, combined with severe flooding in four provinces that are considered key to food production, meant there could be severe food shortages by the northern spring. Food production is already down 20 per cent because of the floods.

Mr. Bociurkiw added that UNICEF has received only half of the $11.2 million it requested for services in the DPRK this year, which means an urgent injection of funds is needed to ensure the provision of basic services, especially for women and children, next year.

WFP spokesman Simon Pluess said the agency only had enough funds to feed 700,000 people, even though it had identified at least 1.9 million in need of help. So far it has only received about 15 per cent of the $102 million it requested for an assistance programme.

Mr. Pluess said about a third of the population is considered to be chronically undernourished and 37 per cent of children were stunted because of malnutrition.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has also estimated that there will be a cereal deficit of 1 million tons next year.

Meanwhile, Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation on Human Rights in the DPRK, is visiting Mongolia to talk with Government officials, local UN agencies, civil society groups and refugees who have fled the DPRK. This follows a similar visit last week to the Republic of Korea.

In a statement issued near the end of his five-day visit, Mr. Muntarbhorn praised Mongolia for its treatment of those people fleeing the DPRK as humanitarian cases, noting that it meets the international principle of non-refoulement, which bans the return of refugees to their country of origin when there is a threat of persecution there.

Mr. Muntarbhorn said most of the people arriving in Mongolia from the DPRK are in transit, aiming to move to a third country for long-term settlement.

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity that received their mandate from the defunct UN Commission on Human Rights and now report to the recently established and enhanced Human Rights Council.

 

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