A United Nations assessment published today finds that the main annual harvest in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has improved compared to last year but serious nutrition concerns persist, especially among young children.
The joint report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that while harvests are expected to increase by about 8.5 per cent over 2010, the country will still have a cereal import requirement of 739,000 tons.
The planned Government imports for the year stand at 325,000 tons, leaving a cereal deficit of 414,000 tons, the agencies noted in a news release.
The report concludes that nearly three million people in the country will continue to require food assistance in 2012.
“Many people have been hit hard by food shortages over the past lean season,” said Arif Husain of WFP’s food security analysis unit in Rome.
“Although improved with the new harvest, the situation remains precarious, especially on a nutritional level. Humanitarian support in the form of fortified blended foods for the most vulnerable continues to be critical,” he added.
During her recent visit to the DPRK, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos warned that the country cannot feed its people for the “foreseeable future,” and urged the world to step up its humanitarian support for an estimated six million people who now depend on food aid.
Ms. Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, reported that the country remains “highly food insecure,” with daily rations recently reduced, unreliable food supplies, restricted agricultural production and many children left stunted.
Hospital staff told the FAO-WFP assessment mission of a significant increase in malnutrition among young children. Some paediatric wards indicated that cases admitted for malnutrition since April had doubled compared to the same period last year. A lack of protein, fats and vital vitamins and minerals continues to compromise proper physical and intellectual development into adulthood.
The joint report recommends pulses and fortified blended foods to address the problem of protein deficiency, to help recovery from a severe lean season and to prevent a further spike in malnutrition.
It also recommends, in the short term, the provision of wheat, barley and potato seeds for planting this winter and in the spring of 2012, and the delivery of plastic sheeting to protect seedbeds through April-June next year.
In the longer term, it says that DPRK should increase its domestic production by adopting conservation agriculture – which is based on minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotations – together with appropriate mechanization.
The Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), which was divided into four teams, visited 29 counties in all nine agricultural provinces over a 10-day period. This was the first time the mission’s members were able to visit provincial and county markets, as well as State shops.