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WFP To Begin Emergency Food Campaign In North Korea

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) on Friday said it would begin providing emergency food aid to 3.5 million people in North Korea, Reuters reports (Mackenzie, 4/29).

“WFP officials said North Korea is short on food because of a rough winter, crop loss and the inability to get cereal supplies from outside countries,” United Press International writes (4/29). “Women and children will be the focus of the one-year WFP operation, which follows an assessment by several aid agencies of food security inside the DPRK, according to a press release issued by the agency,” the U.N. News Centre writes. WFP predicts that the operation will cost just over $200 million.  

“We face a critical window to get supplies into the country and reach the millions who are already hungry,” said Amir Abdulla, WFP’s deputy executive director and chief operating officer. “Our primary concern is for those who are most vulnerable to shocks in the food supply – children, mothers, the elderly and large families,” Abdulla added (4/29).

In its release, the agency said though “acute malnutrition has not reached crisis levels, widespread chronic malnutrition and the poor diet … mean that if there is any significant reduction in food intake the situation could deteriorate rapidly,” Reuters reports (4/29). The U.N. News Centre notes that UNICEF has ‘launched a $20 million appeal to fund assistance programmes in the five DPRK provinces with the highest rates of malnutrition and in other counties with similar problems” (4/29).

Also on Friday, the State Department “refuted charges by former President Jimmy Carter that the United States and South Korea were withholding food aid from North Korea for political motives,” CNN reports (Dougherty/Carter, 4/29). After his trip to the country last week, former President “Carter accused the U.S. and South Korea of human rights violations against North Koreans by withholding food aid,” the BBC reports. “One of the most important human rights is to have food to eat, and for South Korea and the U.S. and others to deliberately withhold food aid to the North Korean people is really a human-rights violation,” he said.

“As you know well, the North Koreans were the ones who abruptly suspended the aid program in 2009, ordering our humanitarian personnel to leave the country and leave behind 20,000 metric tons of US food,” said Jacob Sullivan, the state department’s policy planning director. “Everyone should remember who is responsible for the plight of the North Korean people, and that is the North Korean government itself,” he said (4/30).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.