Spokesperson - Belgium - Global Issues
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has begun the distribution of food funded by an 8.5 million euros donation from ECHO – the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office – for its emergency operation to reach mainly young children and women threatened by rising malnutrition in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
BRUSSELS-- The first tranche of food purchased with ECHO funding – over 5,500 metric tons of wheat – will go mainly to children under five years of age and pregnant and nursing mothers, as WFP bids to protect the most vulnerable from the threat of malnutrition.
“The European Union has shown its true humanitarian heart in supporting our vital work helping the youngest and weakest – the people who are least able to fend for themselves,” said WFP DPRK Country Director Claudia von Roehl. “Our in-country stocks have been at an historic low, so the arrival of this food means we can make good on our plan to deliver vital supplies to those most in need.”
The bulk of the wheat is being distributed in four provinces considered to be amongst the most chronically food-insecure – North Hamgyong, South Hamgyong, Ryanggang and Kangwon.
The balance is being sent to WFP’s network of factories around the country where it will be used to produce specialised nutritious food products designed to give young children in particular a nutritional boost of the vitamins and minerals so frequently lacking in their regular diet. These products will be ready for distribution by early October.
“This is a particularly difficult period for the poorest in DPRK and this assistance delivered through WFP comes at a vital time, as people continue to feel the effects of the annual lean season,” said Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, Director of WFP’s Brussels office. “WFP has secured the kind of access necessary to ensure that this food reaches those most in need.”
WFP has established the most stringent monitoring conditions since starting work in DPRK in the mid-1990s. Five Korean-speakers are now part of the operation, and WFP international staff have access to markets of various kinds, and are able to do nutrition screening as part of efforts to understand more closely the overall food security and nutrition situation in DPRK.
WFP’s field offices now have full internet connectivity, allowing food movements to be tracked across the country.
The European Union is WFP’s second largest donor. In 2010, contributions channelled through ECHO – the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection –reached €194 million, supporting projects in more than 30 countries.