WFP has pledged to continue working with the North Korean government and the international donor community to ensure that the needs of millions of hungry North Koreans are adequately and appropriately met.
“The transition from emergency assistance to the promotion of longer term food security is an important feature of our operation and will be accelerated,” said Richard Ragan, WFP’s Country Director for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Serious funding shortfalls
WFP’s DPRK operation has suffered serious funding shortfalls for the past four years, depriving millions of its 6.5 million designated beneficiaries of supplementary rations of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and other commodities for long periods.
To date, only 270,000 of the 500,000 tonnes of food needed for 2005 has arrived.
Ragan described as inaccurate recent media reports alleging that the DPRK government had asked WFP to leave the country by year’s end.
“Our counterparts in Pyongyang see us as a valuable partner and want the relationship to continue," he said.
“But they have expressed a clear preference for development-oriented assistance over emergency relief. That shift is already well underway. Three-quarters of our current activities involve some form of capacity-building."
WFP supports food-for-work projects which provide nourishment to participants and their families, create employment opportunities where few otherwise exist, and help build and rehabilitate community-level agricultural and urban infrastructure.
The agency’s provision of commodities for 19 factories that produce enriched foods for millions of malnourished children, women and elderly people has expanded the country’s industrial base.
WFP’s focus on feeding pregnant and nursing women, and children in nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools is also a key investment in the DPRK’s future.
“We are discussing with the government and with donors how our assistance programme can be further refined to support development,” Ragan said.
Reaching the neediest
WFP is by far the largest aid agency in the DPRK, with 40 international staff members and six offices countrywide. It has progressively refined its targeting and monitoring mechanisms since 1995 to ensure that donations channeled through the agency reach the neediest, Ragan said.
“This infrastructure naturally has a cost, but it is a very worthwhile investment in the future of the Korean peninsula.”
WFP’s substantial and longstanding presence in the DPRK has also yielded dividends beyond the alleviation of hunger, he added.
“Increased mutual understanding and the building of trust and confidence have lowered all kinds of barriers. We project an image of the outside world that is sympathetic, supportive and reassuring. These are assets that must not be squandered.
“We are essentially talking about investing in ordinary, innocent people. Without sustained outside support of the right kind, the human capital of the DPRK stands little chance of realising its considerable potential.”