07/31/2008, 00.00
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Food crisis in North Korea, millions hungry

At least 6.4 million people are in urgent need of aid. The population is surviving on grass and wild berries. The UN fund asks for 20 million dollars to confront the emergency, and calls for assistance programs to improve conditions in the country.

Pyongyang (AsiaNews/Agencies) - North Korea is going through a severe food crisis, comparable only to the famine that struck the country at the end of the 1990's. Jean-Pierre de Margerie, director of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), says the poor harvests in recent years and the flood in 2007 have left millions of North Koreans without the minimum amount of food necessary for survival.

The UN fund affirms that at least 6.4 million people (out of a total of 23 million) are in urgent need of food, three out of four families have drastically reduce their consumption of food - including grains and proteins - and an increasing number of people are turning to grass and wild berries just to survive. For a number of years, North Korea has received aid from the international community, but environmental disasters and poor harvests have intensified the emergency.

According to initial estimates, 20 million dollars are needed right away to confront the immediate needs, ahead of the fall harvest. The WFP, finally, hopes for the creation of a longer-term assistance plan, which calls for the investment of 500 million dollars by September of 2009.

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