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North Korea Food Aid Cut Due to Lack of Funds - 2002-05-05

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) says it has been forced to halt food rations to more than one million hungry people in North Korea because of lack of funds.

The World Food Program says six million people in North Korea need food assistance. But because the agency does not have the money to feed them all, it has had to make some tough choices.

WFP Spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says the agency has had to stop distributing food to 675,000 adolescents in secondary school and 350,000 old people. She says WFP also has had to shut down a food-for-work program, which affects a half-million people. She says these were difficult but necessary decisions which had to be made.

Ms. Berthiaume says WFP has to concentrate on feeding the most vulnerable people - orphans, young children, and pregnant and breast-feeding women. She says many of them would probably starve without help from WFP.

And she says the North Korean government plans a radical cut in its public distribution of food rations. Government rations will be cut to 200-250 grams of cereal per person. In contrast, she says, the World Food Program distributes at least twice that much to each person living in a refugee camp.

Without new contributions, she says, WFP will run out of food by July and August, and will no longer be able to provide help even to the most needy.

Ms. Berthiaume says, to date, only the United States, South Korea and Finland are contributing to North Korean food aid, and those contributions only cover half of the needs.