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Saturday, January 21, 2017
North Korea facing severe food shortage
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¬†The Catholic aid agency CAFOD along with the Caritas Internationalis is calling on the world to increase aid to North Korea to avert severe food shortages. Despite an improved harvest over the past year, a drop in foreign aid pledges has reduced the amount of assistance received by North Koreans, and has forced many people once again to scavenge for food. Delegates at the Caritas North Korea Country Group meeting at the Confederation's headquarters in the Vatican said they fear the country risks sliding back into famine unless donor nations increase commitments to North Korea. "North Koreans are living on the edge and if aid pledges and programmes are decreased any further, the effect could be devastating," said Kathy Zellweger, Director of International Cooperation of Caritas Hong Kong, who heads the Caritas DPRK programme. In 1995, Caritas Internationalis was one of the first humanitarian organisations to respond to North Korea's initial calls to the international community for help. To date, the Caritas Confederation has provided over 23 million dollars worth of food aid to nine million people through a series of appeals issued by the General Secretariat in Vatican City to its 154 members worldwide. CAFOD gave a £50,000 grant in September last year. The UN World Food Programme announced last month it would resume food distribution to 1.2 million North Koreans after the United States pledged 100,000 tonnes of food, but more is needed to ensure all North Koreans have access to food. North Korea has received international food aid since the mid 1990s, but chronic malnutrition, especially among children, remains. It is estimated that over 40% of children below the age of five are malnourished and the effects will be felt far into the future. "It is striking to see the impact chronic malnutrition has had on the children," says Zellweger. "Most children's growth has been stunted by a chronic lack of food. A 7-year old boy in North Korea is only about 105 cm tall, while his South Korean counterpart is 125 cm." According to the UN, the average North Korean receives just under nine ounces of food per day, which is half the amount recommended for an adult. Caritas fears that without an increase from the international community, this figure will drop even lower.
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