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N. Korea’s hunger situation worse than 1990s: report

Hunger situation in North Korea this year worsened from the 1990s despite considerable amount of international aid to the communist nation, a Washington-based food institute showed Saturday.

The 2012 Global Hunger Index published by the International Food Policy Research Institute said hunger remains a serious problem worldwide, with alarming levels in some countries.

North Korea’s hunger situation was at the “serious level,” the report said, with its GHI standing at 19 points, higher than that of 15.7 in 1997.

The GHI ranks 120 countries on a 100-point scale in which zero is the best score (no hunger) and 100 the worst. An increase in a country’s GHI score indicates that the food crisis is worsening.

The North showed the highest GHI growth rate of 21 percent from 1990, followed by Burundi and Swaziland with 17 percent, it said.

The country’s GHI rose sharply between 1990 and 1996 and has declined only slightly since, providing evidence of chronic food insecurity in spite of considerable international humanitarian assistance, the institute said.

The IFPRI attributed the worsening food situation to a weak economy, high military spending, weather-related crop failure and systemic problems in the agriculture sector that have hampered progress.

This year’s GHI reflects data from 2005 to 2010, the most recent available country-level data on undernourishment, underweight children and child mortality.

North Korea suffers chronic food shortages, with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement. Hundreds of thousands died during a famine in the 1990s.

The impoverished North is grappling with the after-effects of floods in summer that killed hundreds of people and inundated vast areas of cropland, according to official figures from Pyongyang. (Yonhap News)