South Korea donation to WFP allows major boost to its feeding programmes in DPRK

ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme today welcomed an announcement of a critically needed contribution worth in excess of US$20 million by the Republic of Korea (RoK) to WFP's food assistance to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), where a lack of funds has already forced the agency to cut back feeding programmes for schools and for at-risk infants and small children.

"This crucial and very generous donation will allow us to increase our response to the most pressing needs of the people of the DPRK," said Josette Sheeran, WFP Executive Director. "The significant gap between food required and food available in the DPRK has led to growing hardship and suffering for millions. The situation calls for determined and timely action by the international community and we welcome the lead taken by the Republic of Korea."

The contribution, a mix of commodities, comes in the middle of the "lean season" when household food stocks traditionally run low and at a time when WFP has been forced to suspend school feeding for the month of June for 400,000 North Korean children in 29 underserved, food-insecure counties.

It will allow WFP to resume food assistance for children, pregnant women and families in food-insecure areas. WFP also hopes it will help it to reach more than double the number of present beneficiaries, from 700,000 to 1.9 million, in all 50 counties where the DPRK authorities have agreed to WFP food distributions.

At the same time, WFP warned that many millions of North Koreans still face severe food shortages. Even with WFP now being able to reach 1.9 million people, there are still millions of vulnerable North Koreans who are going without food assistance to cover their nutritional needs.

Despite steady improvements in the food situation in DPRK after the famine years of the mid- to late 1990s, having enough to eat is still a struggle for one-third of all North Koreans, notably those living in remote and mountainous regions. The DPRK's annual food deficit amounts to about one million tons, which can only be filled through imports and external assistance.

"For too long, WFP's operations in DPRK have been significantly underfunded, so we have not been able to help all of the people who had been counting on our assistance," said Tony Banbury, Asia WFP Regional Director. "With this donation, WFP can begin to meet the needs of a much larger number of North Koreans, especially those who need our help the most."

Due to the earlier lack of resources, only five of WFP's seven food processing factories are presently in operation, for the most part operating at partial capacity. With the RoK contribution, WFP will now plan for the reopening of further food processing facilities.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People..

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For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Paul Risley, Asia Spokesperson, WFP/Bangkok

Mob. +66-81-701-9208, In Seoul (March 28-30): +82-119-679-0984

Jean-Pierre DeMargerie, Country Representative, WFP/DPRK, Mob. +86-1380-136-1766

Bai Jie, Beijing Liaison Officer, Mob. +86-1390-136-6252

Brenda Barton, Deputy Director Communications, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602, Cell. +39-3472582217 (ISDN line available)

Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel.. +44-20-72409001, Cell. +44-7968-008474

Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Cell. +41-792857304

Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149, Cell. +1-202-4223383

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Cell. +1-646-8241112, luescher@un.org