UN expert calls for two-pronged approach to end food crisis in DPR Korea

19 October 2011

A United Nations expert today called for a two-pronged approach to tackle the food crisis in the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), urging the international community to step up its efforts to provide aid to the country and the Government to overcome its flaws in its food distribution system.

In his statement to the General Assembly’s third committee, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK Marzuki Darusman expressed concern for the Government’s capacity to feed its citizens, and warned of malnutrition and other diseases that the population, particularly children, is increasingly vulnerable of contracting.

“Reports indicate that the current rations provided by the DPRK Government can meet well less than half of the daily calorific needs for the 68 per cent of the 16 million population receiving public food rations through the public distribution system,” he said, adding that most people struggle to make up for this food shortage since they lack the necessary purchasing power.

Mr. Darusman said the structural problems within the Government’s food production system need to be addressed in the long-term, and stressed the importance of immediate assistance provided by UN agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP), whose emergency operation will support 3.5 million people with food and nutritional support.

The UN expert’s recommendations come as the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos continues her visit to the country to assess its food crisis.

Ms. Amos had said earlier this week that during her visit, she would evaluate the conditions on the ground and talk to UN agencies to reassure donors that their money is reaching those who need it the most, as there had been concerns of aid being diverted for other uses.

In his statement, Mr. Darusman stressed that monitoring aid has been particularly difficult in the country, and called for the Government to provide more access for this purpose, emphasizing the need for an expansion in the “humanitarian space” to monitor assistance but also for development aid in other areas.

In his report, which covers the period from March-October 2011, Mr. Darusman also spotlights other pressing issues in the country such as the increasing number of asylum-seekers and human trafficking.

While the exact number of migrants is difficult to estimate, Mr. Darusman said there has been a drastic increase in the past five years, and warned that this is especially dangerous for women and children as they are vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers who approach them with the promise of helping them leave the country.

He stressed that the situation for women in general is precarious, as violence against them is “pervasive in workplaces and local communities,” and recommended that the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) explore the possibility of establishing offices in the country to help the Government prevent violence against women.

 

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