The World Food Programme (WFP) has been unable to meet its funding goals for North Korea this year and is appealing for urgent donations, spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said during a briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
“We must not wait for diplomatic progress to alleviate the suffering of millions of people… Funds are urgently needed now,” Verhoosel said, according to a UN news release.
In further comments carried by Reuters, Verhoosel said that while there had been “improvements” this year, ultimately “humanitarian needs across DPRK remain high, with chronic food insecurity and malnutrition widespread.”
The UN said following the briefing that over 10 million people, or 40 percent of the DPRK’s population, are “undernourished and in need of support, with one in five children stunted due to chronic malnutrition.”
With major flooding last month displacing thousands and negatively impacting access to food, the WFP and other UN agencies see disaster prevention and relief as another main target of operations.
But the WFP now says it has only been able to raise 27 percent of the USD$52.6 million budget target so far this year, which includes projects to address malnutrition, access to food, and crisis response in the country.
It is now calling for “$15.2 million over the next five months to avoid further cuts to programmes,” according to Tuesday’s news release.
“Any donation we receive today will take at least six months to reach the people who need it, due to the time it takes to purchase and transport food,” Verhoosel added.
WFP executive director David Beasley visited North Korea in May this year, after which he said it was vital authorities grant the agency better access and transparency in order to attract funding.
“I was very clear with [the North Koreans]… ‘if you don’t give us the information and the access we need, the chances of receiving funds necessary or food necessary to move the ball forward on food security is going to be a different game,’” Beasley said in Seoul following his trip.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock also visited the North in July, where he also noted progress had been made but said a large funding shortfall was a major obstacle to providing relief.
The WFP relies on what it calls “multilateral contributions” from countries – unearmarked donations which the organization can then allocate freely – to boost more controversial programs such as the one in North Korea.
As of mid-September, Sweden topped the list with USD$96 million in multilateral contributions, followed by the Netherlands with USD$42 million.
And while the U.S. remains the WFP’s largest overall donor with just under USD$1 billion provided in the first half of this year, only 10 million of this was unconditional.
The North Korean program has only received USD$3.1 million in multilateral contributions this year, meaning the rest of its budget has to be gathered through direct donations from governments, corporations, and private donors.
The WFP is yet to respond to NK News‘s request for clarification on the precise amount raised for the DPRK program this year and the identity of the direct donors.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: WFP/Silke Buhr
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