UN scales down food aid to North Korea

May 29th, 2009 - 7:30 am ICT by IANS  

United Nations, May 29 (Xinhua) The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling down its food assistance to North Korea due to lack of funding, the global food agency has said.
“The number one reason of why we have to scale down our operations (in North Korea) is a lack of funding,” WFP spokesperson Bettina Luescher told a press conference here Thursday.

“When we launched the operation in October, we were hoping we could feed six million people but the funds have simply not come in,” the official said.

The WFP received just $70 million in funding - 14 percent of what they require to feed a majority of the 8.7 million people who need food assistance in North Korea, said Luescher.

However, Sheila Sisulu, deputy executive director for Hunger Solutions at the WFP, said food aid was scaled back because the government in Pyongyang had requested to do so.

“We are in the process of phasing down (the North Korea programme) for a number of reasons, including that the government itself has said they don’t need emergency food assistance,” Sisulu said, adding that entry points had been closed.

The food shortage in North Korea is caused by many factors such as a long-term decline in soil fertility, extreme weather conditions, and restrictions on market activities, among others.

As a result, majority of the families are cutting down the number of meals per day and consuming a very poor diet, WPA said.

“One of the signs of inadequate diet is the poor growth of children in North Korea, said Luescher. “They are the weakest of the weakest that we have to work for.”

“Obviously, we are concerned about the situation of the people, ” she added.

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