World Food Programme says sharp cuts in N. Korean food aid coming

Shortage of international aid means fewer meals for children and nursing mothers
June 20th, 2014

The UN World Food Programme has suspended food aid to North Korea starting from this month due to a lack of funds from the international community, Radio Free Asia reported on Thursday.

With the initial goal of reaching 2.4 million people, the WFP estimate that about 1.8 million North Koreans will now receive aid.

The decision to reduce the aid to North Korea was made on at a board meeting at the WFP headquarters in Rome June 3-6. 

WFP spokesperson Frances Kennedy told RFA that school meals for 7-10 year olds will be halted in order to maintain feeding infants at orphanages and nursery schools, the WFP. 840,000 children and pregnant mothers will stop receiving the aid for now. 

Dierk Stegen, WFP Representative to North Korea who was interviewed by RFA earlier this month, explained that if the situation on collected funds does not improve, then the only choice left is to downsize the scale of intended nutrition support for the North Korean people. 

“We gathered just below 25 percent of what we need,” Stegen said. “If the lack of funds continues, then for the children and pregnant mothers we have no choice but to decrease the amount of food aid and nutritional support.”

From July 2013 until June 2015, the WFP made a $200 million budget to support 2.4 million people in North Korea’s vulnerable social classes. However, the funding shortage brought the budget down $62.5 million and the current amount of aid is estimated to be one-third of the intended amount. 

In the WFP annual report, the foot shortage was declared a “state of emergency.” Malnutrition is particularly severe in Yanggang Province and North Hamgyeong Province, and is feared to worsen with this downsizing of food aid distribution.

“The factory producing enriched biscuits for children in Chongjin and Haesan is the only one operating,” Stegen said. These cities have the highest growth rate of 40 percent in the country.”
Although 2,000 tons of corn and 7,400 tons of wheat will arrive in mid-June, the decrease in aid will continue.

As of today, the international community is bringing in 35 percent of what is needed. In order to aid the children and women of North Korea, the WFP must collect $9 million every month until June 2015. 

Picture: UNAMID, Flickr Creative Commons

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  • Christian Fredrickson

    The article should be amended: instead of “for children and nursing mothers”, it should read “for children and nursing mothers in the families of cadre members, exclusively within Pyongyang city limits”. The government redirects all foreign aid to its elite members, relabeled as “spoils of war” and used to reward loyalty, and is entirely comfortable with allowing the rest of the nation to starve. Any food that’s shipped in as part of humanitarian assistance means less rice Pyongyang needs to purchase from China. The UN’s obliviousness to these conditions should come as no surprise to anyone.

    • Warren Lauzon

      Probably a lot of truth to that. From what I have read in various places, Pyongyang has to a large extent written off some areas of the country. That may in the end turn out to be a big mistake, but only time will tell.

  • Warren Lauzon

    And you can add to that the fact that there is probably an 80% certainty that North Korea will have another massive famine this winter due to a combination of bad weather, failed policies, flooding due to massive deforestation, and general corruption. I would expect a flood of refugees heading for China in another 3 to 5 months.