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World Food Program Runs Out of Money for N. Korea - 2002-07-29

The U.N. World Food Program says it does not have enough money to resume feeding more than a million North Korean children and elderly.

In May, the U.N. aid agency suspended cereal distribution to secondary school children, elderly people, caregivers, and teachers in North Korea. Then, last month, the World Food Program said a $100,000 donation from the United States would allow it to resume food aid to those groups.

But the WFP says it has not received enough major donations to continue feeding more than one million North Koreans.

The agency is still providing aid to more than four million children in orphanages and kindergartens, as well as to pregnant and nursing women. But the WFP says that this program also risks being cut if it does not receive significant new help from donor countries.

Aid agencies say hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have died of disease and malnutrition since the mid-1990s. According to Pyongyang, almost half of North Korea's children under age five are chronically malnourished.

The WFP says this year's aid shortfall is due in part to the international community's shift in focus to Afghanistan, which is rebuilding after decades of fighting.

Aid workers also privately blame a sharp drop in aid from Japan. Last year, Japan was North Korea's largest donor, contributing more than half of all WFP food to the communist state.

The World Food Program says despite an improved spring harvest, North Korea needs another 400,000 tons of food to feed its population until October.