DPRK operation: funding crisis threatens more cutbacks in distribution of food aid

News and Press Release
Originally published

WFP Press Briefing - Geneva
Without urgent new pledges to its DPRK operation, WFP will be forced to make further cut backs in the number of North Koreans receiving its food aid.

To date, the agency has only received 35,000 metric tons of the 80,000 needed to cover the needs of the most vulnerable North Koreans over the first quarter of 2003.

The shortfall is threatening to leave children, pregnant & lactating mothers as well as the elderly without food aid in the middle of North Korea's harsh winter, when temperatures can plunge to -37 degrees Celsius.

WFP field reports have confirmed that lack of heating is already keeping children away from pediatric hospitals.

Lack of funds had forced WFP to take three million North Koreans off its distribution lists last September. The agency launched a new appeal for US$ 201 million on December 3, but the poor response means WFP is still struggling to correct damage caused by last year's shortfall.

It is the first time since WFP started working in DPRK in 1995 that the agency has faced such a severe funding crisis.


The United States, Japan and South Korea are historically the main donors to WFP operations in DPRK:

South Korea: in 2002, South Korea contributed 100,000 metric tons of maize - the same as its 2001 donation.

Japan: Japan's donation to DRPK has plummeted from half a million tonnes in 2001, to zero in 2002 - a huge gap for WFP to fill.

United States: the US is North Korea's single most important donor, providing 157,000 tonnes of food aid in 2002.

Last June, however, the US has said that it would only contribute more if DPRK guarantees WFP access to more counties, allows random monitoring of distribution sites and provides a list of institutions to which food aid is delivered.


WFP has consistently asked the North Korean authorities for access to more counties with less restriction on monitoring. Progress is being made:

Double-teaming: the authorities have allowed the introduction simultaneous monitoring by two WFP teams in the same province on the same day (known as "double-teaming").

Monitoring hours have also been extended, increasing the number of monitoring visits by one-third.

Focus groups: the introduction of so-called focus group discussions, by which WFP staff sit with groups of pregnant or nursing women or elderly people, has allowed much more information to be gathered about how people live, what their sources of income and food are, and how much food items cost.

This valuable information about individual and family economies means WFP can make more informed judgments about shifts in vulnerability patterns to improve its targeting of food aid.

Satellite agreement: WFP has reached an agreement with the North Korean authorities on installing satellite communications facilities at the agency's main Pyongyang office and five sub-offices.

Medical emergency: the government has granted WFP permission to evacuate international staff by air in the event of a medical emergency.

The agency has already successfully put its new evacuation procedure to the test in late September.

Nutritional Survey: the DPRK government has honored its commitment to proceed with a nutritional survey, assisted by WFP and UNICEF.

Data collection involving mothers and young children from 6,000 randomly selected families was completed in late October. Results are due out around the turn of the year.

This survey is crucial to determining the impact of international food aid in recent years. In particular, by refining what WFP knows about who is hungriest and where they are, the information will allow the agency to better target future aid.

WFP and Donor concerns

Better access: North Korean authorities should grant WFP access to more counties. To date, WFP can access 162 of DPRK's 206 counties.

WFP policy is: "no food, no access", which means that WFP will not deliver food aid in areas off limits to distribution monitors.

North Korean authorities say that WFP cannot access 44 counties for security reasons.

Random monitoring: WFP should have more freedom to monitor North Korea's food situation.

Under the current system, WFP has to submit travel plans in advance; when staff reach their destination - county, town or city - they are usually allowed to visit the institutions they want to see.

Food aid list: in August 2001, the DPRK authorities promised to give WFP a list of institutions to which food aid is delivered. It has never arrived.

The list would assist random monitoring

Contact Information

This is a summary of what was said by WFP spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 7 January 2003, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

For more information:

tel: +41-22-9178 564
fax:+41-22-917 8087