WFP DPR Korea Update No. 49

Due to the shortfall in donations, in February WFP was not able to provide food aid for up to 2.9 million vulnerable people, including children in nurseries and kindergartens, primary school children, pregnant/nursing women, elderly people, and caregivers in child institutions.
Cereal distributions to children in nurseries, kindergartens and pregnant and nursing women, suspended for some regions from late last year, will resume only after the middle of March as the 46,000 mt (ECHO contribution) shipment is delayed slightly. With this arrival, food distribution needs for all beneficiary categories - pregnant and nursing women, children in orphanages, nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools, the elderly and caregivers at children's institutions - will be met through April. However, if no new contributions are received by then, distributions will again need to be cut from May onwards. Food-for-work project food allocations for the spring season have been curtailed to about 70% of that planned as resources dwindle.

In February, cash contributions were received from the governments of Australia (USD 1.76 million) and Norway (USD 900,000). Both will be used for the purchase of wheat. Despite these, as well as indications of new contributions arriving in-country in the latter part of the second quarter, WFP's emergency programme remains heavily under-funded for all commodities in the latter half of the year. It is imperative that additional donor contributions, including cereals, pulses, Corn Soya Milk, oil and sugar, are confirmed as soon as possible to cover the third and fourth quarters.

To avoid worsening the widespread hunger and malnutrition in the country, donor contributions for about 77,000 mt of food are urgently required to cover the operation for the first half of 2003. In addition to 60,000 mt of cereals, requirements also include powdered milk (2,200 mt), CSM (8,000 mt), sugar (600 mt), pulses (6,000 mt), and oil (800 mt).

Nutrition Survey Report released

According to the Nutrition Survey results announced on February 20, 2003, malnutrition among children in the DPRK has been reduced significantly over the past four years. The field portion of the survey was carried out in October 2002 after the DPRK government agreed to a follow-up survey, with the participation of UNICEF and WFP, to that conducted in 1998. WFP staffed the majority of the survey teams with its international and national Emergency Officers.

The survey covered children under seven years of age and their mothers, from 6,000 randomly selected households in 10 of the country's 12 provinces and municipalities. The youngest child from each household was weighed and measured, and the mother's nutritional condition was assessed. In addition, questions were asked about factors that could influence nutrition, such as food availability, child feeding and care, and health status.

Although the new assessment is not strictly comparable with the 1998 survey, clear positive trends are discernible:

  • The proportion of children underweight (weight-forage) has fallen from 61 percent in 1998 to 21 percent in 2002.

  • Wasting, or acute malnutrition (weight-for-height), has fallen from 16 percent to 9 percent.

  • Stunting, or chronic malnutrition (height-for-age), has dropped from 62 percent to 42 percent.

The assessment also provided the first objective analysis of differing vulnerability across the country. Stunting among children in Nampo City was 25 percent, for example, compared to 48 percent in South Hamgyong Province. The wasting rate in Pyongyang, the capital, was just under 4 percent, against 12 percent in South Hamgyong. The survey found similar patterns in food availability and the incidence of childhood diarrhoea. A further important finding was that about one-third of mothers are malnourished and anaemic.

Though child malnutrition has fallen considerably, the UN agencies believe there is still cause for great concern and that gains could be lost if international support for humanitarian assistance to the country continues to decrease. According to World Health Organization criteria, the underweight rates are still "high", and the stunting rates are "very high." Moreover, the recent slump in external donations for food, medical and other assistance could compromise the gains.

Operational Review

The main agricultural activities in February included preparation of seedbeds, fencing seedbeds with straw fences, ploughing fields in preparation for early crop planting, transporting and spreading of organic manure in the fields, and repair and maintenance of irrigation canals and waterways.

Two nutrition workshops were conducted in Pyongyang by staff from the Regional Bureau in Bangkok, Ms. Judit Katona-Apte and Ms. Anette Haller, during the month. WFP international and national staff attended the workshops. Presentations of the results of the Nutrition Survey were made to the resident humanitarian community and WFP staff after the release of the report.

Daily food rations provided by the government through Public Distribution Centers (PDCs) in February remained at 300 grams/person/day, similar to that in the last quarter of 2002. Distributions at this level are expected through March.

Monitoring and Access

All WFP sub-offices were operational in February, as the Hyesan office in Ryanggang province re-opened for regular monitoring activities. Though FFW activity was less in February compared to one year earlier, total monitoring visits increased by about 15%. Further, Emergency Officers have increasingly been able to observe food distributions in PDCs.

Monthly Monitoring Visits
Feb 2003
Feb 2002
LFP Factories
Family visits

Access as at end February 2003

Access : 162
No Access: 44
Total Counties: 206


Of the remaining 17 incomplete long-term projects from the autumn 2002 season, 6 FFW projects were monitored during February. Due to resource constraints, only 24,000 mt of food has been allocated for the 2003 spring season, about 70 percent of the planned tonnage. East coast provinces were allocated 18,000 mt and west coast provinces 6,000 mt. In total 91 FFW project proposals were received from the government by the end of February.

Two FFW workshops were conducted from February 4 to 12 for provincial and local authorities in Kangwon, Ryanggang and North and South Hamgyong provinces. The FFW Unit introduced the prospect of implementing new types of FFW projects: water sanitation, urban activities, community/household food security, and food-for-training. The findings of these workshops are also being used to review the project types proposed for implementation in the coming spring season.

Mr. Rezaul Karim, FFW technical consultant from WFP Bangladesh, is in-country from February 22 to March 8, to assist the FFW unit in developing operational guidelines and revising work norms. During his review of WFP-assisted FFW activities in the DPRK and field visits, work-norms were highlighted and the feasibility of various new activities assessed. Initial discussions with FDRC on work norms for different project types were also initiated.

A meeting was held with Mr. Ralph van Gelder of UNOPS on IFAD's Upland Food Security Project (UFSP) in Ryanggang and North Hwanghae provinces to discuss WFP's participation through the FFW programme. Preliminary food requirements for assisting tree-planting projects in UFSP areas would be about 1,200 mt for 2003.

Local Food Production

The total output for February was 1,328 mt, with an increase of operational factories from five at the beginning of the month to fifteen during the last week of February as factories began to receive wheat and DSM (powdered milk). The latter was reallocated from the CSM/CMB (corn soya milk/ cereal milk blend) factories after recipes were (temporarily) changed to exclude DSM. Those factories will now produce CSB (corn soya blend) and CB (cereal blend). From the beginning of March, all 18 factories are expected to be operational.

ADRA Switzerland's contribution of 27 mt of skimmed milk powder to WFP's RMB (rice milk blend) production was received in the month.


Caritas Hong Kong is looking at possibilities to provide 100 mt of DSM and 600 mt of sugar for WFP's LFP facilities. 100 mt of canned meat for pregnant and nursing women and children in orphanages in the north east of the country may also be included. The Caritas donation of 2,200 mt of rice arrived at Hungnam port in February, for distribution to kindergarten children in the east coast provinces. The ration, 300 grams/day/child will last for about 38 days.

Commodity Arrivals

A total of 6,091 mt of food arrived in February (excluding FALU):

  • 2,886 mt of pulses (USA) arrived on the MV Hua Sha at Nampo port.

  • 2,000 mt of wheat (Luxembourg) arrived at Sinuiju by rail from Dalian, China.

  • 151 mt of sugar (Australia) arrived at Sinuiju by rail from Dalian, China.

Staffing Update

WFP international staff contingent increased to 39 at the end of February with the arrival of a new Emergency Officer.