The United Nations World Food Program has to drastically cut the number of
hungry North Koreans it feeds because of a lack of international funding and new
restrictions imposed by Pyongyang.
The World Food Program originally planned this year to reach more than six
million hungry people in North Korea.
WFP North Korea representative Torben Due said
Wednesday that number has been cut by two-thirds, to less than two million. He
referred to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic
"It's among the lowest [number] we've ever had in the DPRK,"
Due says the main problem is that the WFP's emergency operation
in North Korea does not have enough money. The program has received "very little
funding" since October 2008. Of the $500 million needed, only 15 percent has
been received so far.
He also says the North Korean government has placed
new restrictions on the WFP's work. These new conditions include not being
allowed to have Korean-speakers on the WFP staff, which has been sharply reduced
to 16 people, from 59. There also is a requirement that the WFP give notice
seven days in advance to visit a site, as opposed to the current 24-hour
Due says most of the hungry people in North Korea now suffer from
the effects of nearly two decades of food shortages. He says the problems of
serious malnourishment affect children before they are even born, if their
mothers are underfed.
"We are seeing the combined impact of a chronic
undernourishment of a very large part of the population and the impact of it is
more dramatic than just a few weeks or months where you have too little to eat,"
He says the WFP and the UN's Food and Agriculture organization did a joint
survey last year that found a 8.7 million people in North Korea need food aid.
This is more than a third of the country's total population of 23 million
North Korea has needed aid to feed its people for more than
decade. Its state-controlled economy has contracted because of mismanagement and
shortages of raw materials, while poor farming techniques and periodic floods
have reduced harvests.