WFP DPR Korea Update No. 48

January 2003

Food aid shortfalls continue...

The food pipeline for the DPRK has worsened progressively since the middle of 2002. By the end of last year nearly 2.9 million beneficiaries had to be dropped from WFP food distributions. In the new year, despite arrival of some donations, again, up to 2.9 million people, will not receive WFP food distributions as planned during the first half of 2003 without immediate and significant new contributions.

The nutritional health of the most vulnerable groups -young children, pregnant and nursing women, the elderly and caregivers in child institutions and hospitals - is at risk as WFP distributions remain suspended. There is grave concern that, if new contributions are not soon forthcoming, the significant gains made over the past several years in reducing malnutrition and levels of stunting risk being lost.

Local Food Production factories, experiencing shortages in powdered milk (DSM) and cereals, have already begun to close down. The considerable efforts that led to the doubling of production levels each year between 2000 and 2002 may be lost if there is insufficient food to keep the operations going.

Carry-over stocks have not been nearly sufficient to meet needs during the early weeks and months of the year. Recent important contributions include Euro 9.5 million from ECHO that will be used to purchase more than 46,000 mt of wheat. Other donors include EuropeAid, which has offered 23,000 mt of wheat; Italy, with a Euro 3 million donation for the purchase of rice; and Switzerland, which has made a cash donation of USD 350,000. However, there are no contributions at all in the pipeline for the last six months of 2003.

Immediate pledges of 105,000 mt are required to ensure continued implementation of the complete range of WFP's planned activities throughout the remainder of the first half of 2003. Commodities most in need include cereals (84,500 mt); CSM (10,000 mt); and powdered milk (3,000 mt). The latter is critical to avoid long-term closure of a majority of the LFP factories.

Operational Review

Very cold weather, heavy snowfall and frozen rivers have been reported in most of the provinces for January. Winter crops are covered with snow, which is beneficial for crop growth and for retaining soil moisture. Post harvest tillage is almost complete in the provinces. Current agricultural activities range from transportation and depositing of organic manure onto fields, preparing seedbeds and weaving straw-based baskets (as a substitute for unavailable plastic sheeting to cover seedbeds) in the provinces. Farmers continue to transport manure to the fields both manually and by ox carts.

With the suspension of cereal distributions to west coast areas in late 2002, nurseries and kindergartens have reduced the number of daily meals. This suspension has not been compensated by additional allocations from local authorities. Farming parents generally provide a daily ration of 100 grams of cereals to the institution for their children, while households relying on the Public Distribution System (PDS) reportedly contribute 100 grams of cereals for their children's daily ration at the nursery or kindergarten out of their PDS allocation.

As reported in a number of provinces, attendance rates in nurseries and kindergartens have also dropped due to a lack of adequate heating in the classrooms. As the daily electricity supply reaches an average of 5-10 hours outside of Pyongyang, maize or paddy husks are often used to heat classrooms and to cook food.

An increase in illnesses resulting from the severely cold winter conditions is also reported amongst children. Visits to paediatric wards indicated that a combination of seasonal respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia), diarrhea and severe weight loss were currently having a negative impact on the nutritional status of ri and up area children. A shortage of basic medicines (e.g. antibiotics) in paediatric wards was also reported.

Daily food rations provided by the government through Public Distribution Centers (PDCs) in January remained at 300 grams/person/day, similar to that in the last quarter of 2002. Distributions at this level are expected through March. As reported by local authorities, the annual farmer ration of 219 kgs/farmer was distributed in January. The type of cereal given to farmers depended on the commodities produced in cooperatives to which the farmer is attached. This 2002 allocation covers the period November 2002 to October 2003. PDC prices of staple foods reportedly remained the same as in previous months.

Monitoring and Access

Monitoring visits in January were reduced slightly compared to the previous month. Kindergartens and primary schools were closed for the winter holidays, while port activity was minimal. Visits to PDCs have shown a significant increase in the past few months, as Emergency Officers have been able to witness food distributions from PDCs regularly. During the month, all regional teams collected harvest production figures for 2002 in the provinces.

Most WFP sub-offices were operational except Hyesan in Ryanggang province due to harsh winter conditions. However, a WFP team traveled to Hyesan in the last week of January to commence monitoring activities. A Programme unit workshop was held in the month to review operations and activities in 2002 and discuss objectives for 2003.

Monthly Monitoring Visits

Jan 2003
Jan 2002
LFP Factories
Family visits

Access as at end January 2003

Access: 162*
No Access: 44
Total Counties: 206

* Phanmum county in Kaesong City was declared inaccessible due to the establishment of an industrial complex in a joint venture with the Republic of Korea.


No FFW monitoring was conducted in January. The remaining incomplete 17 projects from late 2002 will be monitored during the assessments of spring season projects in March.

FFW project selection criteria were revised for 2003. Project targeting focus will be on the top 80 most vulnerable counties in eight provinces, with an emphasis on the east coast. Projects in collaboration with NGO and other UN agencies, those integrating FFW with VGF, and those designed and implemented by women, will be prioritized in 2003.

A joint project with Concern Worldwide, an Irish NGO, is under discussion for submission to the government. The project proposal calls for WFP support for tree planting and terracing activities in North Pyongan province, an identified vulnerable area.

Two FFW workshops will take place from February 4 to 12 for provincial and local authorities in Kangwon, Ryanggang and North and South Hamgyong provinces. Mr. Rezaul Karim, a FFW technical consultant from WFP Bangladesh, will be in-country from February 22 to March 8. He will assist the FFW unit in the identification and selection of appropriate FFW projects in the DPRK and help prepare a set of FFW project execution guidelines.

All procured FFW Non-Food-Items (i.e. shovels, hammers, pickaxes, pruning shears, metal buckets, work gloves and calculators) have been stocked at the Pyongyang central warehouse. A proportion of these NFIs will be dispatched to the two warehouses on the east coast in preparation for FFW spring project activities.

Local Food Production

LFP operations in January were affected by severe pipeline constraints. As powdered milk stocks ran out, 4 of the 7 biscuit factories had to stop operations. Production of the Cereal-Milk-Blend product was also halted on the east coast due to over-production towards the end of 2002. Only the noodle factories and the Rice-Milk-Blend facility operated regularly during the month.

With receipt of 2,000 mt of maize (purchased in the region with various cash contributions) in February, LFP will revert the production of Corn Soya Milk Blend (CSM) back to Corn Soya Blend (CSB) in the CSB factories in Pyongyang, Hamhung and Chongjin. Soybeans in the CSB recipe will replace scarce DSM, which will be then used for biscuit production, currently stopped owing to the lack of DSM. ADRA Switzerland confirmed its contribution of 27 mt of DSM to WFP's RMB production. It is expected to arrive in February 2003.


The ACT/Diakonie donation of 300 mt of fertilizer (USD 50,000) arrived in January for Maengsan County, South Pyongan. The project aims to assist some 7,554 rural households to increase the yields in their kitchen gardens for their own consumption and to increase the amount of food sold in urban market places. Each household will receive about 40 kg of the NPK fertilizer.

Commodity Arrivals

A total of 3,595 mt of food arrived in January:

  • 765 mt of vegetable oil (USA) and 610 mt of soy beans (USA) arrived on the MV Ming Ri at Nampo port.

  • 1,260 mt maize (Norway) arrived at Namyang and 960 mt maize (USA, New Zealand and Norway) at Sinuiju by rail from Dalian, China.

Staffing Update

WFP international staff contingent was reduced to 38 at the end of January as one staff member transferred to WFP's operations in Southern Africa.