The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) cut back on rations for North Korean children and pregnant women due to funding shortfalls, according to the organization’s monthly in-country report published by reliefweb today.
The WFP will limit rations – which consist of fortified cereals and biscuits – by one third, the minimum it considers to have a “nutritional impact”.
“WFP has been forced to reduce its rations for children and pregnant and nursing mothers. If no new funding is received by the end of March, WFP will have to stop assistance to kindergarten children and eventually to reduce its geographic scope in DPRK,” the country brief reads.
The report also says final food distributions for flood recovery operations took place in January, adding that 114,312 rations were delivered to North Koreans, while the UN group also contributed to rehabilitating river embankments and other assets affected by the floods.
North Korea was struck by heavy rains and typhoon in late August 2016. The ensuing, widespread damage and loss of life triggered emergency funding from various UN organisations. The DPRK government also suspended parts of a 200 day labor campaign to divert resources to flood recovery operations.
But the WFP update adds that crop production remained strong in “two out of every three” counties visited by UN representatives, with the exception of potato crops which are more concentrated in the north-eastern flood affected regions.
“The floods were also relatively localized, which would make it quite possible for overall national food production to remain close to the recent years’ average,” Randall Ireson, former director of an NGO agricultural assistance program in North Korea told NK News.
The DPRK has often grappled with food security and its agricultural sector has historically been prone to sudden shocks like droughts or floods, though conditions may have improved in recent years.
“I believe the farming system is somewhat more resilient than it was even 5 years ago, but still could be substantially disrupted by a widespread weather event or long-term anomaly,” Ireson added.
Despite the improvements, the WFP still estimates the 25.4 percent of children in North Korea suffer from chronic malnutrition, falling from over 30 percent in 2009.
The WFP’s warnings about donations comes just over two weeks after UNICEF called for $16.5 million for its DPRK projects.
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