WFP has to halt food aid for 400,000 North Koreans

GENEVA, May 18 (Reuters) - The United Nations food agency said on Friday that it would have to suspend rations next month for 400,000 of the 700,000 people it is feeding in North Korea because of a lack of donations.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said it had received only $23.2 million towards its appeal of $102.2 million for North Korea in 2007 and 2008.

"Due to a lack of funds, we will have to suspend distribution of food to 400,000 of the 700,000 people we are helping," WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told a briefing.

This is particularly worrying as the reclusive communist country entered a "lean season" last month during which families' personal food supplies are at their lowest until September, she said.

A school feeding programme will have to be cut in September if funds are not forthcoming, she added.

Berthiaume repeated WFP's appeal for donors to "make a difference between humanitarian needs and politics", but declined to be more specific.

Food donations to North Korea fell dramatically in 2006, a year in which Pyongyang stayed away from six-party talks aimed at dismantling its atomic programme and conducted its first nuclear test.

Australia and Switzerland are the largest of a dozen donors, which do not include either South Korea or the United States, according to Berthiaume.

Several million North Koreans face hunger and malnutrition from a food shortage of nearly 1 million tonnes, or about 20 percent of its needs, the WFP said after a visit in late March.

The WFP had been feeding some 2 million people, but reduced the number after the government said it expected a good harvest and more bilateral contributions.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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