Child malnutrition rising sharply in North Korea

PHOTO: Child malnutrition rising sharply in North Korea

ROME - Three million people in North Korea will need food aid in 2012 and malnutrition among young children is rising despite bigger harvests, the UN said on Friday after a visit to the secretive communist state.

"Nearly three million people will continue to require food assistance in 2012," said the report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), which are both based in Rome.

"Hospital staff told the assessment mission of a significant increase in malnutrition among young children," it said.

"Some paediatric wards indicated that cases admitted for malnutrition since April had doubled compared to the same period in 2010."

The report said that it expected this year's harvest to be around 8.5 per cent higher than last year but warned that domestic production and government food imports were not enough to cover needs.

"There remains an uncovered cereal deficit of 414,000 tons," it said.

It also called on North Korea to switch to more mechanised and more efficient forms of farming in order to increase productivity.

"Paddy yields at 4.3 tons per hectare in DPRK are about 60 per cent of those in neighbouring South Korea," said FAO economist Kisan Gunjal.

"This productivity gap represents a potential for the North to increase its farm output and eliminate chronic food shortages by adopting appropriate technology, inputs and measures," Gunjal said.