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WFP Issues Warning on North Korea Food Aid - 2002-02-19

The World Food Program has warned that unless it receives more money it may have to cut food rations for millions of people in North Korea. WFP officials say they have gotten a poor response from the international community to their latest appeal for aid to North Korea.

The World Food Program says only two countries - South Korea and the United States - have made donations. But it says their contributions only amount to one-quarter of the $216 million it needs to feed nearly 6.5 million North Koreans this year.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume has said while the agency has not yet been forced to cut food rations, the situation is very critical.

"If we do not get fresh funds soon - I mean at the end of February, beginning of March - we will have to start cutting. And that will be the first time. I mean we have never had that problem in North Korea, it has always been very well funded," she said.

Ms. Berthiaume said in two weeks, the agency will not have enough food to feed people in need in North Korea.

"The situation is really bad," she emphasized. "Okay, we are not in a famine situation like we were in 1997. The situation has improved. That does not mean that it is good or fantastic. I mean these people are hungry and they need that food, particularly in the following months there is a critical period before the next harvest in July," she said.

WFP spokeswoman Berthiaume has said the agency, when it has enough supplies, distributes 35,000 tons of food each month in North Korea. She said a shortage would be particularly harmful to children and pregnant women, as they are the ones most at risk of malnutrition and disease from lack of food.