We are pleased to share with you John O'Dea's Field Trip Report to South Hamgyong from the 20th to 24th March, 2000.
John O'Dea is the current Head of the Food Aid Liaison Unit (FALU), which is a consortium of NGOs (of which ACT International is a member) working for the people of DPR Korea in close cooperation with the World Food Program (WFP).
Three counties were monitored - Doksong, Hongwon and Pukchong. County warehouses, as well as nurseries and kindergartens at both county and Ri level were visited. FALU and EMOP commodities were checked against distribution plans. FALU commodities were physically seen at all institutions. Storage and food preparation areas were readily accessible at all sites.
No existing cases of malnutrition were reported. Generally health of children was said to be improving. However, nursery and kindergarten principals said they had 'weak' children who had not fully recovered from previous episodes of illness and malnutrition, or were weak due to digestive problems.
Utilization of FALU pulses and oil was broadly in line with ration scales stipulated in distribution plans. No serious discrepancies were found. In some instances however the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) shipment had not yet been used. Nurseries and kindergartens had been instructed to use up existing EMOP pulses prior to using the CFGB peas.
A variety of dishes were seen which had been prepared using FALU pulses and oil. Food preparation was seen at different stages over the course of our visits. Peas were seen being boiled and mashed. A common food was bread made with pulses inside. Also peas which had been water milled were used to make a pancake with oil. For meals later in the day, in both nurseries and kindergartens, pulses were mixed with rice while oil was used with almost every dish.
All institutions visited were well stocked with WFP food. Existing stocks of cereals are broadly expected to last between May to July. Oil will last until May in all the institutions that were visited. Stocks of pulses will last for longer periods. Some nurseries and kindergartens will have pulses until July/August, whilst in others, stocks will remain into the final quarter of the year.
All three counties are primarily agricultural and the general population is still able to subsist on last year's harvest. Daily rations from the Public Distribution System (PDS) were said to be around 350 gms per person immediately post harvest. These have progressively fallen since then to current rations of 200 gms per person per day. Rations consist of equal amounts of maize and wheat. Food stocks from the harvest are intended to last through the 'barley uphill struggle period' until mid-year when potatoes and wheat/barley become available.
Main agricultural activities at this time of the year are manuring of seedbeds. Some mulching of seedbeds is also observed. People from towns in large numbers are seen going out to farms to help farmers at this busy time of year. Long trains of ox-carts carrying human waste manure were seen going out of Hamhung.
Birds are frequently observed. Small birds of prey, notably falcons are commonly seen hovering in towns and in rural areas. This would indicate an abundance of rats and mice that are agricultural pests.
It is still often difficult to arrange additional unscheduled visits to nurseries and kindergartens and to persuade county officials of the necessity for this.
The DPRK continues to be in the grip of a severe and complex social, political and economic crisis, which has been exacerbated by disasters in recent years resulting in a massive humanitarian problem. The ACT Network has provided humanitarian assistance amounting to over US$ 17 since the devastating floods of mid 95 till end 99. The ACT Appeal for the year 2000, ASKP01 issued on 16 February for US$ 2.75 million is less than 45% funded and thus needs urgent support as the situation is still extremely fragile and the need for continued assistance is imperative.
Thank you for your attention and support.
ACT Web Site address: http://www.act-intl.org
ACT is a worldwide network of churches and related agencies meeting human need through coordinated emergency response.
The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.