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Northeastern NK in serious food crisis: UN Web site

All Headlines 11:45 July 26, 2008

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is facing a dire food crisis in its northeastern regions, according to a United Nations-run Web site monitored here on Saturday, amid rising concerns that the situation may be worsened by soaring grain prices and poor harvests.

Assessing internal reports collected as of this week, ReliefWeb, a Web site run by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, declared North Korea is in an "acute food and livelihood crisis."

Warning that illnesses such as diarrhea may be spreading, the site said the crisis has been brought on by "insufficient food intake, poor dietary diversity, increasing malnutrition rates" and chronic food deficits.

The areas undergoing the crisis include the Hamgyong and Ryanggang provinces, the site said, adding that the World Food Programme plans to launch a new project to address the food needs in these northeastern regions.

North Korea, an impoverished nation that is believed to have lost about 2 million people in the 1990s famine, has heavily relied on foreign handouts to feed its 23 million people since then.

Following recent progress in international talks aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear weapons programs, the United States has shipped about 500,000 tons of promised food aid to the North.

But according to the South Korean government, the North still lacks at least 1-2 million tons of rice this year to feed its people, while soaring food prices worldwide could aggravate the situation.

North Korea lost a vast portion of its crops last year due to torrential rains that led to floods, which also killed and displaced a large number of people.


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