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UN World Food Program Cuts Aid in North Korea - 2003-01-07


The U.N. World Food Program said millions of people in North Korea are going hungry because of a sharp drop in contributions from international donors.

The WFP said it has had to cut off assistance because it does not have enough food.

A spokeswoman said this means food rations will have to be eliminated for three million people, including children in school feeding programs, pregnant and nursing mothers, elderly people, and patients in hospitals.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said Japan, which was a huge contributor, cut off aid last year and said it would not renew assistance until relations with North Korea are normalized. South Korea has not cut its food donations to North Korea.

The spokeswoman said the United States has continued to provide aid.

But, she says U.S. Officials told Pyongyang in June they would cut back on assistance if the government did not allow aid agencies access to all parts of the country. Ms. Berthiaume notes that 44 of North Korea's 206 counties are off limits to relief workers for what the North Korean government calls security reasons.

"The United States, as always, and is still the most important donor country for WFP operations in North Korea," Ms. Berthiaume said. "They have given last year in 2002, 157,000 tons of food. But since June, they have obviously reduced their contribution because they have linked their contribution to improvement in the distribution of food aid."

Ms. Berthiaume said the reduction in U.S. aid is not related to the current dispute over North Korea's nuclear policy.

The World Food Program said last year was the first time since 1995, when the agency began operating in North Korea, that its programs have not been well supplied.

The agency says it needs 80,000 tons of food to assist 6.4 million North Koreans for the first three months of this year. But it has received less than half of what it needs.

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