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FAO: 1 in 4 Rural North Korean Children Underweight

FILE - North Korean children eat lunch at a government-run kindergarten in Taedong county in south Pyongan province, July 18, 2005.

More than 26 percent of children in North Korea’s countryside are underweight, a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report says.

The agency, in its recently released "State of Food and Agriculture 2015" report, also estimated that there are twice as many undernourished children in the communist country’s rural areas as in its cities.

Andre Croppenstedt, an FAO researcher who wrote the report, told VOA that "it’s normal to have a much higher percentage of children underweight in rural areas as opposed to urban areas," but that the gap "is perhaps a little larger than usual” in North Korea.

The North Korean ratio is the 24th highest among the 123 low-income developing countries. Among East Asian countries, North Korea’s ratio ranked fifth, after East Timor, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Laos.

North Korea has suffered from frequent food shortages in the past 25 years, including a famine in the 1990s.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.