1 October 2009 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over the impact of the humanitarian situation on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), where over one third of the nearly 24 million-strong population is in need of food assistance.
The Asian nation’s humanitarian problems – including food shortages, a crumbling health system and lack of access to safe drinking water – seriously “hamper the fulfilment of human rights of the population,” Mr. Ban wrote in a new report to the General Assembly.
A joint report by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) released last December estimated that nearly 9 million people could be hungry due to a shortage in cereals in the DPRK this year.
Even with commercial imports, the country will face a cereal deficit of over 800,000 tons, according to the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission, the first such comprehensive mission conducted since 2004.
In July, WFP announced that it is being forced to scale back its emergency operation to reach 6 million hungry and vulnerable people in the DPRK due to a severe lack of funding. Of the $504 million needed for the programme, only $75 million has been received so far, allowing the agency to reach only 2.3 million people.
“With 70 per cent of the population dependent on the public distribution system, it is a matter of concern that Government officials are reporting declining rations,” with portions not even meeting one third of daily energy requirements, Mr. Ban said.
Urban households, which have been impacted by lower salaries and employment due to the recession, have been the hardest hit by the shortage in food, the new publication noted.
The Secretary-General said he is concerned at the continued decline in food assistance provided by the international community in the face of worsening food shortages.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that malnourishment among children and women is linked to a limited food supply. The agency noted that while it can “mitigate this problem to some extent through multiple interventions, the structural and other constraints to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger continue to be challenging.”
The report also stressed that the DPRK Government has not taken steps to improve human rights, with Mr. Ban characterizing the rights situation in the country as “grave.”
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