WFP has launched a new emergency operation valued at approximately half a billion dollars to feed 6.2 million people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including many in previously inaccessible areas of the country.
Millions of North Koreans do not have enough to eat.
Tony Banbury, WFP Regional Director for Asia
“Right now millions of North Koreans do not have enough to eat. This new operation is designed to make sure they do,” said Tony Banbury, WFP Regional Director for Asia at a press conference today in Beijing, adding that WFP would need almost US$8 million per week to provide the level of food assistance required in the DPRK.
“It is very important that donors come forward now and support this critical operation.”
Worst hunger in a decade
WFP had previously warned that the DPRK was suffering its worst hunger levels since the late 1990s, due to heavy flooding in August 2007, lower harvests and drastically reduced food aid and imports.
The immediate negative impact on food security was confirmed by a comprehensive “Rapid Food Security Assessment” conducted jointly by WFP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in June. More than three quarters of all households had reduced their food intake, over half were eating only two meals per day and more malnourished and ill children were being admitted to hospitals and institutions.
WFP has negotiated a new agreement governing the terms of its work in the country, which included providing for the best monitoring and access it has ever had since the start up in 1995.
Previously inaccessible areas
The new operation will extend to areas that were previously inaccessible, targeting the young, the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Close to half the beneficiaries will be in the remote provinces in the north east that have been hard hit by industrial recession and that are deemed most vulnerable to food insecurity.
During a seven day visit to the DPRK, Banbury made a 2,000 kilometer trip through five of the eight provinces targeted under the new programme: Ryanggang, North Hamgyong, South Hamgyong, Kangwon and Pyongyang. He also met government officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Food Administration and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the implementation of the new WFP programme and the need for food assistance.
"WFP has received encouraging cooperation from the government in the past few weeks but there are some areas where further discussion is needed to ensure continued good cooperation and that the food reaches the right people at the right time,” said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, WFP Country Director for the DPRK programme.
"All in all, operations are progressing well and we have been able to expand assistance to reach over 4 million hungry and vulnerable North Koreans.”
WFP is deploying 59 international staff members to support the new programme. More than 20 of them will be working in six newly-established field offices to monitor and track food distributions – and for the first time ever, the international staff will include Korean-speakers, in accordance with the new agreement between WFP and the DPRK government.
WFP monitors have already visited county warehouses and beneficiary institutions in 125 of the 131 targeted counties and have accounted for all WFP food assistance distributed so far.