Emergency Food Assistance to Vulnerable Groups in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

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The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is facing large food shortages due to a series of recent shocks including extremely heavy rainfall in 2010, a particularly harsh winter which contributed to high post-harvest losses and significant milling losses due to high moisture content and immature grains.

Following a formal appeal for emergency food assistance made by the DPRK Government to WFP in January 2011, an inter-agency rapid food security assessment (RFSA) was carried out from 20 February-11 March 2011. The mission, comprising WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and donors, estimated an uncovered food deficit of 886,000 mt for 2010/11 (November/October).

Even with a gradual reduction in rations and inputs from early crops, Public Distribution System cereal stocks will be severely depleted by end-April/early-May, just at the start of the lean season, according to the Government. Given the already high prevalence of chronic malnutrition across the population, any significant reduction in government distributions would have an immediate adverse impact on the nutritional status of the most vulnerable, especially in the five most food-insecure provinces of the north and east.

WFP will scale up ongoing food assistance to support over 3.5 million vulnerable people through a 12-month Emergency Operation (EMOP), primarily for women and children, incorporating and expanding activities under a Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) launched in July 2010. The PRRO will be suspended for the duration of the EMOP.

The RFSA identified as especially vulnerable pregnant and lactating women, children, and elderly people. Women and children constitute almost 90 percent of the beneficiaries of the EMOP. Pregnant women will receive fortified blended food and cereals during their pregnancy and for 12 months of the subsequent nursing period. Children under 2 years in nurseries and baby homes will be similarly supported. Infants are of particular concern, since inadequate nutrition during the 1,000 days from conception has life-long negative consequences. This careful targeting is designed to ensure the provision of essential nutrients throughout the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity, when the risk of stunting – mental as well as physical – is highest, and the consequences of it are most damaging.