A new agreement between the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) paves the way for the agency to step up its food assistance to more than five million hungry people in the country.
The agreement, which was signed on Friday, was hailed by WFP as a significant breakthrough in its long-standing efforts to ensure that all those in need of food aid in the DPRK are able to receive it.
On Sunday a United States ship arrived in the port of Nampo carrying 37,000 tons of wheat, the first instalment of a US food aid pledge of up to 500,000 metric tons, which would provide enough food to allow WFP to expand feeding operations from the 1.2 million people it currently feeds to more than five million.
“WFP is grateful for the cooperation and commitment of the DPRK and United
States governments,” said WFP’s Regional Director for Asia, Tony Banbury. “With their support, WFP will now be able to dramatically expand our food assistance operation, and provide aid to millions of people who would otherwise be at risk of increased hunger and malnutrition.”
The agreement will also enable WFP to send nearly 50 more international aid workers to the country, who will oversee and monitor the delivery of food to make sure it reaches hungry people most in need.
In addition, WFP will be expanding into 128 counties, up from just 50, including the remote and traditionally food-insecure Northeast and some counties never before accessible to humanitarian agencies.
“With this agreement, WFP will be in a position to reach more hungry people and put an expanded and more comprehensive monitoring system in place,” said Mr. Banbury. “The presence of a larger number of international staff will ensure improved targeting and monitoring of food deliveries on behalf of WFP beneficiaries.”
“The challenge will now be to put words into action and quickly expand distributions of badly needed food aid to the hungriest people of DPRK,” said WFP Country Director Jean-Pierre de Margerie in Pyongyang. “We appreciate the enhanced collaboration with the DPRK Government and look forward to full implementation of the agreement.”
The expansion of food aid comes at a critical time when the country is facing a cereal shortfall of more than 1.5 million tons – the largest food gap since 2001, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Compounding the situation is the rise in domestic prices for staples such as rice, wheat, maize and potatoes.
WFP and FAO are currently examining the extent of the needs throughout the country. The results of what is the most comprehensive assessment on food and nutrition undertaken in the DPRK since 2004, is expected by mid-July.