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WFP urges countries not to ignore NK food shortage

An aerial view shows residential buildings in Pyongyang, North Korea. (123rf)
An aerial view shows residential buildings in Pyongyang, North Korea. (123rf)
North Koreans need food and clean drinking water now more than ever before, but the situation is set to worsen, Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the World Food Program, said Tuesday, urging the international community not to look away.

More than 10 million people -- nearly 40 percent of the country’s population – are in need for humanitarian assistance, she told reporters, adding that about the same number also lacked access to safe water supplies.

Children as well as pregnant and nursing mothers are hit hardest by malnutrition, with 1 in 5 children aged 5 or under suffering from stunted growth and 1 out of 10 being underweight, the United Nations food aid agency said.

The agency needs $54 million this year to assist 1.2 million people in the North. Last year it helped 900,000 North Korean residents.

But food deliveries have been suspended to the North as well as to other countries such as Laos and Sri Lanka, the agency said in its latest COVID-19 report in late May. It did not elaborate on when or why the aid programs ground to a halt.

The World Health Organization and nonprofit Eugene Bell Foundation said earlier that their shipments of medicine intended for Pyongyang to cope with the pandemic had been approved by the North Korea sanctions committee of the UN Security Council.

By Choi Si-young (