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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
N Korea food crisis deepens
North Korean women collecting food rations
Food rations: North Korea's harvest stocks have run out
North Korea is facing more chronic food shortages after its worst winter for 50 years, the UN's World Food Programme says.

The country's main autumn harvest of corn and wheat fell 1.8 million tonnes short of its 4.8 million-tonne target, said David Morton, the WFP's representative in North Korea. Those supplies were exhausted in January.

Mr Morton did not give an estimate of the number of famine victims, saying it was difficult to obtain hard data from the communist North Korean Government.

"We still see malnutrition. There are some indications this may be more than last year," he said.


The WFP has appealed for 810,000 tonnes of international aid, worth $306m, to help North Korea cope with the food shortages, but only 57% of the grain has arrived so far.

Reclaiming salt plain at Nampo
Workers who help repair the infrastructure get WFP food aid
Mr Morton said hungry North Koreans were foraging in the hills for wild mushrooms and edible leaves.

Leftovers, such as cabbage stalks, are being ground up with wheat to make noodles that offer little nutrition, he said.

The WFP has been feeding about eight million North Koreans since the country's food crisis began in 1996. About six million are children aged from six months to 16 years, Mr Morton said.

Lack of fertiliser and a spring drought led to last autumn's poor harvest.

The current government-run food distribution system is relying on government-to-government aid from South Korea, but there are only enough stocks to provide 200 grams a day per person until May, the WFP says.

Aid agencies estimate that up to two million people have died in North Korea since the mid-1990s as a result of acute food shortages.

North Korea has reached out to the world since a historic summit in June 2000 between the leaders of the two Koreas, but foreign access to the country is still tightly controlled.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
North Korean defections up
09 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
N Koreans 'starving to death'
03 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Karaoke in North Korean aid shipment
28 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Picture gallery: Secret city
28 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Life in Pyongyang
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Where famine stalks the land
15 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korea: No going back
09 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea: A political history
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