North Korea, plagued by years of famine, will “urgently” need food aid for 40 percent of its population, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme said in a report yesterday.
The country is facing a shortfall of more than 800,000 tons of grain for the year through October 2009, in what is likely to be a third straight year of dropping food production, the report said.
By Heejin Koo
About 8.7 million of the country’s 23 million people will “urgently need food assistance,” because “the country’s agricultural production will not meet basic food needs,” according to a FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission report. The agencies visited North Korea from Oct. 9-24.
“The findings of the mission confirm WFP’s fears that millions of DPRK households will suffer through yet another year of food shortages,” WFP country Representative Torben Due said in a statement from Pyongyang, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Accessing enough food and a balanced diet will be almost impossible, particularly for families living in urban areas or in the remote food-deficit provinces in the Northeast,” Due said. “This could have grave consequences for the health of the most vulnerable groups.”
Floods, drought and economic mismanagement have led to persistent food shortages. The South Korean government said in August it is considering a UN request to help raise $60 million to buy food and other essential supplies for its neighbor.
North Korea and South Korea remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended without a peace agreement. North Korea has about 1.2 million soldiers and South Korea about 500,000 on the border. There are 28,500 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea.