UN Food supply tenuous for twothirds of NKoreans

center_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements The World Food Program issued a global appeal for $218 million in emergency food aid in 2011, saying a quarter of North Korea’s population needed foreign food handouts to keep from going hungry. It received only $85 million.South Korea had been one of North Korea’s biggest benefactors until conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008, ending unconditional aid by linking it to progress on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament process.Seoul has no immediate plans to resume massive direct food and fertilizer aid to North Korea, South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin said Tuesday.A North Korean long-range rocket launch in April also scuttled a deal with the U.S. that would have sent 240,000 metric tons of food aid in exchange for a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.Sauvage noted a welcome focus on agriculture, including crop rotation and organic farming, in this year’s joint New Year editorial laying out the government’s policies for 2012.He said that North Korea, proud of its free health care system, runs spotlessly clean hospitals but with limited facilities.“The health care system is on paper quite sophisticated. The proportion of doctor per household is very high,” Sauvage said. “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot in the doctor’s toolkit.” Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates About 16 million North Koreans _ two-thirds of the country _ depend on twice-a-month government rations, the U.N. report said. And there are no signs the government will undertake the long-term structural reforms needed to spur economic growth, it said.Rations usually consist of barley, maize or rice, if they’re lucky, while many children are growing up without eating any protein, Sauvage said. He said malnutrition over a generation can have a severe affect on physical growth, cognitive capacity and the ability to learn.The land in the mountainous north is largely unsuitable for farming, and deforestation and outmoded agricultural techniques _ as well as limited fuel and electricity _ mean farms are vulnerable to the natural disasters North Korea is prone to, including flooding, drought and harsh, cold winters, the U.N. report said.Provinces in the southern “cereal bowl” produce most of the country’s grains, but the food does not always reach the rugged far northeastern provinces, the report said. A crop assessment in October 2011 indicated that 3 million people would need outside food help in 2012.But many donor countries remain skeptical whether food aid would reach the hungry or be diverted to the nation’s powerful elite or million-man military. Yet the government has begun to publicly acknowledge a severe shortage of food for the first time in years.In late May, in an unusual admission of a food problem by a high-ranking official, North Korea’s premier, Choe Yong Rim, urged farmers to do their part in alleviating the food shortage, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.Worries of another drought have also been raised by a reported shortfall of rain this spring in some areas, which will likely lead to reduced harvest in the fall. The apparent effects of the drought were witnessed by The Associated Press in May in South Phyongan province.“I have been working at the farm for more than 30 years, but I have never experienced this kind of severe drought,” An Song Min, a farmer at the Tokhae Cooperative Farm in the Nampho area, told the AP as he stood in parched fields where the dirt crumbled through his fingers.North Korea does not produce enough food to feed its 24 million people, and relies on limited purchases of food as well as outside donations to make up the shortfall. North Korea also suffered a famine in the mid- and late-1990s, the FAO and World Food Program said in a special report late last year. Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   last_img read more