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UN provided $5.9m to North Korea to tackle food shortages

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a visit to a typhoon-hit site in August, 2020. (KCTV-Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a visit to a typhoon-hit site in August, 2020. (KCTV-Yonhap)

The United Nations provided $5.9 million to North Korea last year to tackle the country‘s severe food shortage and for its COVID-19 response, UN data showed Tuesday.

The Central Emergency Response Fund, a global humanitarian fund established by the UN, said it allocated $5 million to the North in June last year to “tackle severe food insecurity and undernutrition,” in its 2020 annual report. The amount is earmarked for 3.59 million people in the country, it said.
The CERF said the projects funded by this allocation are currently being implemented in the North. Some of the projects include nutrition support for vulnerable pregnant women and food assistance for disaster-affected people by the World Food Program, as well as production support for vegetables and soybeans to improve the nutrition of children, women and patients by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.

In addition, the CERF also injected $900,000 to the North for its COVID-19 pandemic response.

The agency said 10.1 million people in the North are in urgent need of food assistance and 10.4 million people need nutrition support as well as improved access to basic services such as health, clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

It also pointed out that humanitarian activities in the country have been “critically underfunded” over the last decade, and the needs of the most vulnerable people, particularly women and children, have not been met.

Concerns rise as North Korea appears to be bracing itself for a serious food crisis, with the state-run Korea Development Institute estimating that the regime is expected to face a food shortage of about 1.35 million tons this year.

At a key party meeting early this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a rare admission that his country is facing “tense” food shortages due to last year’s typhoon and floods, stressing that resolving the food issue was a “top priority.”

The North has suffered chronic food insecurity for years, but the situation was aggravated by last year’s flooding that wreaked havoc on its farming sector. The COVID-19 outbreak has also exacerbated the country’s food crisis, as the North, which relies on food and other materials from China, suspended all trade with its main trading partner to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The FAO warned that if the food shortfall is not covered by imports or foreign aid, “households could experience a harsh lean period between August and October.”

By Ahn Sung-mi (