02/13/2004, 00.00
north korea
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Only a few donors to help for the food crisis

Pyongyang (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The World Food Programme (WFP) warned that 4 million North Koreans (17% of the country's population) are at risk of malnutrition because of a fall in international aid. After last winter nuclear crisis, many countries stopped sending food aid to the country, due to concerns that they could be used to feed the military and not the population. Last November, lack of funds forced WFP to cut food aid to 2,7 million people. Many countries (US, UE, Canada, Australia, Norway) pledged  food aid amounting to some 77,000 tonnes, but only little of this will arrive before April. Masoon Hyder, representative of the WFP in Beijing, said that North Korean supplies are nearly exhausted and that the agency will be able to feed 100,000 people (child-bearing women and children in orphanages and hospitals) in the next 2 months. "We are trying all emergency measures…including asking whether the government itself can give us a short-term loan", said Hyder. He also added that although foreign donors are trying to separate politics from humanitarian issues, "international tension certainly effects humanitarian assistance". Within 2 weeks, US, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia will discuss the issue of nuclear crisis again, to try to solve it.

The food crisis worries also the leadership. Last month Kim Jong-Il, visiting a food processing plant under construction, called for an increase in production at poultry and fish farms across the country to provide North Korea with an "affluent diet as early as possible".

The WFP is trying to feed almost 6,5 million North Korean people, a third of the population, suffering from natural disasters and economic mismanagement. Most of the poor live in urban areas outside the capital, Pyongyang, and are dependent on a government-run Public Distribution System (PDS) providing just 300 grams per person per day – less than half a survival ration. (MR)


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