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Thursday, November 6, 1997 Published at 20:16 GMT


North Korea faces starvation

Aid workers warn that a food shortfall could cause disaster

With winter approaching in North Korea, aid organisations have issued a fresh warning that its people face starvation after the failure of the harvest.

Charities estimate that there is now a one million tonne shortfall of rice and grain.

Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Peninsula has been divided in two with little or no contact between the countries.

[ image: The N.Korean harvest has failed leaving a 1 million tonne shortfall in food]
The N.Korean harvest has failed leaving a 1 million tonne shortfall in food
But while South Korea has seen spectacular economic growth, becoming one of the so-called "Asian Tiger" economies, North Korea's industry and infrastructure has all but collapsed, with the country unable to produce enough food to feed itself.

After three years of droughts and floods the failed harvest is likely to hit the people of North Korea hard, especially children and old people.

Aid appeal

Many of the children are already suffering from skin diseases such as scurvy, brought about by malnutrition and vitamin deficiency.

Aid workers say that although some aid is getting through to the areas in which it is most needed, the winter months could bring a humanitarian disaster if further foreign aid is not found.

[ image: Geoff Dennis:
Geoff Dennis: "Many of the children we've seen are severely malnourished."
Those children the North Korean government allowed the BBC to film were made up to appear healthier to outsiders and although they are not dying yet, aid charities warn that it could simply be a question of time.

Geoff Dennis from the International Red Cross says that more aid must be found quickly:

"The whole country is on the verge of starvation and a lot of the children will be affected for life. They will be both mentally affected and stunted."

[ image: Children's cheeks were 'rouged' before filming was allowed]
Children's cheeks were 'rouged' before filming was allowed
The Red Cross warns that the health system has also broken down. Millions of pounds are now needed, they say, for new equipment, foreign drugs and training.

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