An estimated 11 million people in North Korea — over 43 percent of the population — are undernourished and “chronic food insecurity and malnutrition is widespread,” according to a U.N. report issued Wednesday.
The report by Tapan Mishra, the head of the U.N. office in North Korea, said that “widespread undernutrition threatens an entire generation of children, with one in five children stunted due to chronic undernutrition.” With only limited health care and a lack of access to clean water and sanitation, “children are also at risk of dying from curable diseases,” the report added.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the U.N. humanitarian team in the country is calling for $120 million “to urgently provide life-saving aid to 3.8 million people.” Without adequate funding this year, some agencies providing desperately needed help to North Koreans will be forced to close down, he said.
Mishra’s report said North Korea faces annual shortfalls in agricultural production because of a shortage of arable land, lack of access to modern agricultural equipment and fertilizers, and recurrent natural disasters. Last year, it said, there was a severe heat wave in provinces considered to be the country’s “food basket,” and the food situation was further aggravated by Typhoon Soulik in late August.
He said an estimated 3 percent of children under age 5 — approximately 140,000 — “suffer from wasting or acute malnutrition” and “have a higher risk of mortality. … The main underlying causes of wasting are poor household food security, inadequate feeding and care practices, as well as poor access to health, water, hygiene and sanitation services.”
While U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs are supposed to exempt humanitarian activities, “humanitarian agencies continue to face serious unintended consequences on their programs,” Mishra said. He cited “lack of funding, the absence of a banking channel for humanitarian transfers and challenges to the delivery of humanitarian supplies. … The continued risk-averse approach taken by suppliers and some authorities in transit countries … continues to cause significant delays in the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance.”