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Also In Global Health News: Food Shortages In N. Korea; Polio In Sierra Leone, Pakistan; Global Wheat Supply

U.N. Food Agencies Issue Warning About Food Shortages In N. Korea

“North Korea’s government food distribution system will run dry in May and put one-quarter of the country’s 24 million residents at risk of starvation,” the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said in a report “sent to diplomats in donor countries,” the Wall Street Journal reports in an article that describes the effects of flooding and extreme winter cold on the country’s crops (Ramstad, 3/28). WFP and U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) representatives, who spent a month visiting “nine of North Korea’s 11 provinces and municipalities, … said the state-run distribution system would reduce food rations – mostly rice and maize – from the current 400 grams per person as its stocks dwindled,” Reuters reports in a piece that describes some of the populations and geographical areas at greatest risk from the food shortages (Aloisi, 3/25).

Although the report did not note the cost of aid, “[t]he proposed assistance program amounts to approximately 5% of the 5.5 million tons of rice and cereal grains that outside experts estimate North Korea needs to produce annually to feed its people,” the Wall Street Journal continues. “U.S. officials have said they will scrutinize the WFP’s report. Some congressional leaders have expressed skepticism about North Korea’s desperation,” according to the newspaper (3/26). PBS’ NewsHour features a conversation with David Austin, Mercy Corps’ director of programs for North Korea, who describes the conditions on the ground in the country (3/25).

Polio Vaccine Campaign In Sierra Leone; Challenges For Polio Vaccine Distribution In Pakistan

A polio vaccination campaign targeting more than one million children under age five kicked off Friday in Sierra Leone, Agence France-Presse reports. According to Tity Turay, one of the event organizers, the “‘four-day first-round’ campaign, supported by UNICEF, the WHO, Rotary International and other development partners, will cover all 12 districts in the country and 13 other countries in the sub-region,” the news service writes (3/26). In related news, IRIN examines the challenges to eradicating polio in Pakistan, including parent approval to vaccinate children and access to certain regions in the country where violence is prevalent (3/25).

ClimateWire/Scientific American Examines Efforts To Boost Global Wheat Supply

ClimateWire/Scientific American explores the efforts to meet the growing demands for wheat, particularly in private sector investment in agriculture. For instance, “[l]ast year saw a growth of partnerships between private companies, federal agencies, land-grant universities and organizations. Swiss agribusiness company Syngenta formed a partnership with wheat research institution CIMMYT, seeking to develop both cutting-edge technology and traditional methods accessible to poor farmers in developing countries.” The article describes the potential impact such partnerships in the industrial agricultural system will have on food supply and speculates about how the private sector will consider public interests (Stecker, 3/24).

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