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Global organizations to seek hidden hunger in N. Korea

Posted October. 08, 2013 07:24,   


Students in Pyeongsan, North Hwanghae Province, North Korea, often cut classes. They go to mountains to collect acorns instead of going to school. Their staple is a boiled mix of dried radish greens and the residue of soybean oil. They cannot even see grains like corns, not to mention rice, on the dining table. They are lucky if they have two meals a day. A 49-year-old North Korean resident said this to his friends who defected to the South over the phone recently. He said, “I feel hungry even as an adult, then how about children? People say that North Korea’s food conditions have improved but I can’t see it in our neighborhood.”

Korean and global aid groups, which provide humanitarian aids for North Korea, have started projects to address North Korea’s “hidden hunger.” North Korea’s food conditions have been improving statistically but they say in unison that it is extremely different depending on regions and classes. In particular, North Korean children and infants can be relatively more vulnerable. Dierk Stegen, representative of the World Food Program in Pyongyang, said to this reporter, “About 476,000 North Korean children younger than five years old are still underdeveloped and nutritionally unbalanced. We’re focusing on North Korea’s hidden hunger.”

WFP and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) started a survey on food conditions in 2013 starting from October 27. A joint investigation team is checking food conditions in North Korea and collecting data on food supply and demand conditions and this year’s grain production. A draft report to be released next month will be used as a base data for global organizations to determine how and how much they can provide aid to the North. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says North Korea’s grain shortage, which soared to 1.7 million tons in 2008 decreased to 500,000 tons last year. Grains are not distributed evenly, however, and other food such as vegetables and meat are still in shortage.

In addition, UNICEF started to deliver nutritional treatment meals and medicine to the North with 6.04 million dollars, which Seoul agreed to spend to help North Korea. The World Health Organization also plans to spend 6.3 million dollars, Seoul agreed on Oct. 26. Sources from global organizations say in unison, “The success of this support to North Korea depends on how well they find hidden hunger and deliver what people need properly.”