Monday, September 14, 2009

North Korea’s Silent Killer Food Shortage

In a country where citizens are subjected to ceaseless propaganda telling them that they live in a socialist paradise, it's the silence that tells the other side of the story.

The silence is the sound of an economy in collapse, and nowhere is it more noticeable than in the countryside beyond the showcase capital city Pyongyang. Here, farmers tend their crops with hoes, shovels and their bare hands while the occasional piece of rusting farm equipment - rendered useless by a fuel shortage - sits idle amid the vast fields of rice and corn.

Despite having more arable land per capita than the United Kingdom or Belgium, North Korea is chronically, desperately short of food, and spiraling downward into its worst crisis in a decade.
Almost three-quarters of North Korean households have reduced their food intake, and malnutrition among children under the age of 5 has risen dramatically, a result of diarrhea caused by eating food scrounged from the wild.

The crisis has been exacerbated by Pyongyang's refusal since March to accept food aid provided by the United States, which previously had been the biggest donor to the WFP effort. Now the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) aid will get only to the most vulnerable groups: children, pregnant and nursing women, and the elderly. Since January, the program has been scaled down to just over 10 per cent of the target capacity, with the WFP slashing staff and closing three of its six offices around the country.

[Source: Toronto Globe and Mail]

No comments: