N. Koreans suffer chronic food shortages: UN

Millions of North Koreans suffer chronic food shortages and dire health care, leaving one in three young children stunted, but there are no signs of reform to spur economic growth, the United Nations warns.

Some 16 million people -- two-thirds of the population -- depend on the state rationing system and suffer varying degrees of sustained food insecurity, six UN agencies operating inside the North said in a report released Tuesday.

About one in three children aged under five are stunted -- too short for their age -- because of malnutrition, it said, as it launched an appeal for funding.

UN Resident Coordinator for North Korea Jerome Sauvage said although the food situation was not as bad as it was last year, child malnutrition rates in some parts of the country were "alarming".

"This year our surveys and assessments do not indicate we will have as serious a food problem (as last year). Therefore we do not anticipate as wide an appeal for food," he told AFP in Beijing.

But he added: "We see among children malnutrition rates in a number of counties we have been visiting that are really alarming. Now these are chronic malnutrition problems. There is never enough food for this population."

Last year, government rations dwindled to just 250 grammes of food per person per day, Sauvage said, and Pyongyang issued a rare appeal for foreign aid.

This year the food situation has improved but "being DPRK (North Korea), the agriculture is extremely fragile", he said.

"All it takes is a winter that's been slightly too long, not quite enough rain at critical moments, or a flood later on during the rainy season for the agriculture to really be severely affected."

Reclusive North Korea suffers chronic food shortages, but the situation is frequently exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement.

The official food distribution system, part of the state-directed but moribund economy, largely collapsed during the famine years of the mid- to late-1990s.

There are no official tallies, but hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have died in the famine.

International food aid has dwindled due to rows over the North's missile and nuclear programmes. The United States suspended a plan to deliver 240,000 tonnes of food after the North's latest rocket launch, on April 13.

The UN report said North Korea's health care system is "in dire shape", plagued by frequent power cuts and with less than 30 percent of essential drug needs covered.

The North is the only Asia-Pacific country not on track to meet Millennium Development Goals on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating disease, says the report dated May 29.

Inadequate access to safe water and poor sanitation, coupled with poor hygiene, are mainly to blame for the high incidence of diarrhoea among the under-fives.

The report says natural disasters such as floods and landslides, worsened by the deforestation of slopes, pose serious threats to life.

The UN says the structural causes of food shortages can only be fully addressed through government policy changes, but stresses that humanitarian assistance does save lives.

It says UN agencies need $198 million for their activities in the North this year but less than 40 percent of this had been donated as of May.

While there were "currently no signs" that the government would undertake any of the structural reforms needed to spur economic growth, it has begun to publicly acknowledge severe food shortages, the UN says.

In January 2011, for the first time in seven years, it made an official request for international food aid. But limitations on access for aid workers persist.

"The government often places unacceptable constraints on access" required by humanitarian agencies, the report says.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Shorter hours for rail lines tomorrow
    Shorter hours for rail lines tomorrow

    The Metro Rail Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will have shorter hours tomorrow for the replacement of defective railroad tracks during the Holy Week. …

  • Noy increases allowances for cops, soldiers
    Noy increases allowances for cops, soldiers

    President Aquino has signed a joint congressional resolution raising the daily subsistence allowance for both members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino signed last March 27 the merged Joint Resolution 2 of the Senate and Joint Resolution 26 of the House of Representatives. Speaking to reporters, Lacierda yesterday said the daily allowances of police officers and soldiers were raised from P90 …

  • Oil firms raise gas prices today
    Oil firms raise gas prices today

    This year’s Holy Week break will be accompanied by an increase in local pump prices after oil companies announced yesterday a P1.10 per liter hike for gasoline and P0.60 per liter for diesel effective today. “Phoenix Petroleum Philippines will increase the prices of gasoline by P1.10 per liter and diesel by P0.60 per liter effective 6 a.m. of March 31, 2015 to reflect the movements in the prices of refined petroleum products in the international market,” said Phoenix Petroleum, an independent …

  • DFA denies dropping Phl claim to Sabah
    DFA denies dropping Phl claim to Sabah

    The Philippines has never offered to drop its Sabah claim in exchange for Malaysia’s support for Manila’s arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea issue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday. “In the context of our friendly bilateral relations, our two countries have been for years exchanging ways on how to address the issue of the extended continental shelf (ECS) in the South China Sea,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in explaining the DFA’s …

  • Pagcor remits record high P5 B to national treasury
    Pagcor remits record high P5 B to national treasury

    The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has remitted P5 billion in cash dividends to the National Treasury, fully settling all its arrears incurred in the last several years. Pagcor chairman and chief executive officer Cristino Naguiat Jr. said with this year’s remittance, the state-owned gaming firm has fully settled all remaining arrears in cash dividends that were incurred by the previous administration since 2005. Pagcor’s cash dividends to the National Treasury under its …

  • Maysak moves closer to Phl
    Maysak moves closer to Phl

    The typhoon with international name Maysak slightly accelerated as it moved closer to the Philippines yesterday, threatening to dump rains over eastern Luzon this weekend, the state weather bureau said. Rene Paciente, senior weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said Maysak was spotted at 2,175 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 1 p.m. yesterday. Paciente said based on their latest forecast, Maysak is likely to affect …

  • Phl gets P2-B climate projects from Germany
    Phl gets P2-B climate projects from Germany

    The Philippines is getting 41 million euros or around P2 billion from the International Climate Initiative (ICI) of Germany that will fund 10 bilateral projects to address the impact of climate change. Climate Change Commission (CCC) vice chairman Lucille Sering yesterday met with Norbert Gorissen – head of the International Climate Finance of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety – to discuss the projects, some of which will be …

  • Metro sizzles at 35º Celsius
    Metro sizzles at 35º Celsius

    While the start of the summer season has yet to be declared by the state weather bureau, Metro Manila experienced its hottest temperature so far this year at 35.1 degrees Celsius last Sunday. Rene Paciente, senior weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), yesterday said the highest temperature was recorded around 3 p.m. at the Science Garden in Quezon City. Meanwhile, PAGASA recorded yesterday the hottest temperature in …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options