"Acute malnutrition was more prevalent in this surveyed population than in the most severely affected countries of East Asia such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam," according to a report by the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the European Union.
This puts North Korea among the top 10 countries with the highest malnutrition rates in the world.
A team of 18 international nutritionists from the WFP, UNICEF and the EU measured the weight and height of children from six months to seven years of age, finding that many of the children were severely malnourished.
About three out of ten children in their second year and about one out of five children aged between six and 12 months are acutely malnourished - with boys more likely to be malnourished than girls, according to the report.
The survey sample was drawn from 130 out of the 212 counties in North Korea, representing more than 15 million people of which 2.1 million are children under the age of seven. The survey was carried out from 23 September to 16 October 1998.
The report indicates that 62 percent of the children surveyed were found to be stunted, short for their age. This indicates that the nutrition problem has probably existed in the country for many years. Wasting, which reflects the current problem, affects some 16 percent of the children.
North Korea has been ravaged for the last several years by the decline of its economy and more recently by floods and drought which have sparked food shortages of massive proportions and the collapse of water, sanitation, health and other social services.
WFP, UNICEF and the EU have collaborated extensively in the survey to establish the impact of the crisis on children.
For further information, please contact:
World Food Programme
Christiane Berthiaume, Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9799564
Trevor Rowe, Rome-Tel. +39-6-65132602
Francis Mwanza, Rome-Tel. +39-6-65132623
Patrick McCormick, Geneva-Tel.+41-22-9095509
André Mollard, Geneva-Tel.+41-22-9182217