UN warns of North Korea food crisis


Millions of North Korean children are not getting the food, medicine or healthcare they need to develop physically or mentally, leaving many stunted and malnourished, the United Nations said today.

Nearly a third of children under the age of five show signs of stunting, particularly in rural areas where food is scarce, and chronic diarrhoea due to a lack of clean water, sanitation and electricity has become the leading cause of death among children, the agency said.

Hospitals are spotless but bare, few have running water or power, and drugs and medicine are in short supply, the agency said in a detailed update on the humanitarian situation in North Korea.

“I’ve seen babies... who should have been sitting up who were not sitting up, and can hardly hold a baby bottle,” Jerome Sauvage, the UN’s Pyongyang-based resident co-ordinator for North Korea, said in Beijing before presenting the report to donors.

The report paints a horrific picture of deprivation in the countryside, not often seen by outsiders, who are usually not allowed to travel beyond the relatively prosperous Pyongyang, where cherubic children are hand-picked to attend government celebrations and a middle-class with a taste for good food have the means to eat out.

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