Mrs Jong is an ordinary woman that you might come across anywhere in DPR Korea. The mother of two is in her late fifties, and has been working with WFP since 2002. Originally she worked as a city-level official coordinating WFP’s assistance to beneficiaries in Munchon City, a coastal city in Kangwon Province, in the east of DPR Korea. In 2008, when WFP launched an emergency operation to help people in need of assistance after major flooding, she became the manager of the Munchon Biscuit Factory.
This factory produces special biscuits fortified with micronutrients under a partnership between WFP and the Government of DPR Korea to provide nutritional support to young children.
In her early days as the factory manager, Mrs Jong had to urgently modernise the biscuit production line to meet the increased needs for nutritional biscuits for WFP's distributions to children. "In those days, I slept and ate at the factory with the workers and my husband had to take care of the family,” she recalls. “I had to choose between my family and the suffering children in the flood-affected areas who needed urgent help. This was the greatest challenge. In the end, I made the tough decision."
Not satisfied with the increased production capacity, Mrs Jong decided to try to address quality and food safety aspects as well. "Our job is not only to produce biscuits, but to ensure that the children like them, and that they are safe for the children to eat. Only then can we say that we are fulfiling our commitment to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with WFP in the fight against hunger."
Workers at the Munchon Biscuit factory.
Photo: WFP/Chon Il Kim
She explains the painstaking efforts that were made to protect raw materials from damage during transport and to set up proper storage facilities; how they renovated the wheat mill in order to make finer wheat flour for biscuit production; how the temperature control system of the biscuit oven was automated and much more.
Like Mrs Jong, 87% of the workers at the factory are women, and she explains that they feel empowered by helping those in need of nutritional support. Some of the workers are mothers of beneficiaries receiving the biscuits. WFP distributes the biscuits through institutions such as daycare centres and kindergartens.
“I’ve never been so proud of what I do,” says Mrs Jong. “I go to child institutions and homes near the factory whenever I have time to talk with the caretakers and children.” During the conversations, she asks the children if they like the biscuits from the Munchon factory. "It is my greatest pleasure to see a two-year old who cannot properly form a word yet timidly nod and smile as he nibbles away at a biscuit.”
Under a partnership between WFP and the Government of DPR Korea, nutritious biscuits and Super Cereal are produced in 14 factories across the country. Due to funding shortfalls, production in 5 factories will cease in February. WFP urgently needs USD8 million per month to ensure that nutrition support can continue to be provided to 1.5 million children in the country.
Written by Chon Il Kim