DPR Korea faces potential food crisis due to last year’s flooding, UNICEF warns
A potential food crisis faces the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with serious flooding last year leading to a possible shortfall of 1 million to tonnes of grain, a fifth of total food requirement for 2007, according to an update by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the largest UN agency working in the country.
Meanwhile, far less food is coming into the country because of the Government’s decision not to accept humanitarian aid, UNICEF country representative Gopalan Balagopal said on a recent visit to his agency’s headquarters in New York.
UNICEF is currently active in six of its nine provinces with programmes focusing on nutrition, health and education, as well as safe water and sanitation.
“For me and members of my team, I think the most satisfying part of being in DPR Korea is that we realize UNICEF’s presence really makes a difference for children,” Mr. Balagopal said.
“We have just launched our new three-year country programme,” building on developments from the past few years, he added. “The work we have been doing has helped improve the nutritional status of both children and women…. This is our central focus.”
In the area of health, he pointed out that DPRK now has an immunization rate of 97 per cent, one of the highest in the East Asia and Pacific region. “We provide vitamin supplements and treat children who suffer from acute malnutrition,” he said. “UNICEF is also providing a range of essential drugs to hospitals, as many hospitals in DPR Korea are operating on tight budgets.”
On educational development, Mr. Balagopal noted that for the first time the DPRK participated last year in the East Asia Learning Assessment, a regional survey on the quality of teaching and learning. “There were two areas that needed improvement. One was teacher training, and the second was curriculum revision,” he said. “And UNICEF is very much engaged with interventions in both areas.”