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Agreement reached as first US ship arrives in DPRK with food aid

WFP announced an agreement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that paves the way for a rapid expansion of its food assistance to more than 5 million hungry people throughout the country.

WFP hailed the agreement as a significant break-through in its long-standing efforts to ensure all those in need of food assistance in the DPRK are able to receive it.

WFP is grateful for the cooperation and commitment of the DPRK and United States governments
Tony Banbury, WFP Asia Regional Director
“WFP is grateful for the cooperation and commitment of the DPRK and United States governments,” said Tony Banbury, Asia Regional Director for WFP.

“With their support, WFP will now be able to dramatically expand our food assistance operation, and provide aid to millions of people who would otherwise be at risk of increased hunger and malnutrition.”

US ship

Following the signing on Friday of the agreement, a US ship arrived Sunday in the port of Nampo carrying 37,000 tons of wheat, the first installment of a US food aid pledge of up to 500,000 metric tons, which would provide enough food to allow WFP to expand feeding operations from the 1.2 million persons currently being fed to more than five million.

The new agreement with the DPRK Government will allow WFP to send nearly 50 more international aid workers to the country, who will oversee and monitor the delivery of food to make sure it reaches hungry people most in need. It allows the organization to expand into 128 counties, up from just 50, including the remote and traditionally food-insecure Northeast and some counties never before accessible to humanitarian agencies. In the two northwestern provinces of Chagang and North Pyongan, US NGOs will distribute up to 100,000 metric tons of the US-contributed food aid to schools and hospitals in rural areas hardest hit by food shortages.

The challenge will now be to put words into action and quickly expand distributions of badly needed food aid to the hungriest people of DPRK
Jean-Pierre de Margerie, WFP Country Director in Pyongyang
Monitoring system

“With this agreement, WFP will be in a position to reach more hungry people and put an expanded and more comprehensive monitoring system in place,” said Banbury from the WFP Asia Office in Bangkok. “The presence of a larger number of international staff will ensure improved targeting and monitoring of food deliveries on behalf of WFP beneficiaries.”

“The challenge will now be to put words into action and quickly expand distributions of badly needed food aid to the hungriest people of DPRK,” said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, WFP Country Director based in Pyongyang. “We appreciate the enhanced collaboration with the DPRK Government and look forward to full implementation of the agreement.”

Half the cargo on the US flagged M/V Baltimore, 18,000 m.t., will be discharged in Nampo, with the remaining half split between the eastern ports of Hungnam and Chongjin. The off-loading of the vessel will start today.

Food security in DPRK

The planned expansion follows public warnings that the DPRK food security situation has deteriorated due to flooding in August 2007 and successive poor harvests. According to figures released by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in April, the country of 23 million people faces a cereal shortfall of more than 1.5 million tons -- the largest food gap since 2001.

Meanwhile, prices for basic food staples in DPRK have risen. WFP price monitoring indicates that domestic prices for rice, wheat, maize and potatoes have doubled or tripled in recent months. WFP remains particularly concerned about increasing levels of hunger in regions of the country already highly food insecure.

Assessment on food and nutrition

WFP and FAO are now assessing the extent of needs throughout North Korea, as experts visit households, child institutions and hospitals across the country gathering information. It is the most comprehensive assessment on food and nutrition undertaken in the DPRK since 2004.

The results are expected by mid-July and will guide the expansion of WFP food aid operations in the DPRK. Preliminary debriefs from the survey indicate a high level of food insecurity in the country. WFP has consistently estimated that the number of people in the DPRK requiring food assistance is beyond 5 million, and based on the results of the RFSA, it expects to expand its operation to assist at least that many people. The US contribution gives WFP the resources necessary to provide this critical assistance.


Donors to WFP’s current programme in DPRK include: the United States (US$38.9 million), Republic of Korea (US$20 million), Russian Federation (US$8 million), Switzerland (US$6.6 million), Germany (US$3.4 million), Australia (US$4.2 million), UN CERF (US$2.3 million), Multilateral funds (US$1.9 million), Cuba and Italy (US$1.5 million each), Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and Norway (US$1 million each), Finland (US$737,000), Turkey (US$150,000), Greece (US$ 45,000) and private donors (US$17,000).