The World Food Program (WFP) may have to shut down its operations in North Korea by early next year unless it gets more funding from international donors by this autumn, the UN agency’s director for Asia said on Friday.
WFP, which has the largest presence of any UN agency in the isolated country, has already scaled back its planned two-year, US$200 million program to feed 2.4 million people because it has only enough funds to cover about one-quarter of the cost.
Regional director Kenro Oshidari said by telephone from Bangkok, Thailand, that to run a credible nutritional program, aimed at preventing stunting in children, it needs about US$50 million more. That would target about 670,000 children under two years of age and pregnant and lactating mothers.
Without a replenishment of funds by October or November, WFP could be forced to shut down operations by January or February next year, he said. The existing program is due to run until June next year.
North Korea has alienated much of the international community over its pursuit of nuclear weapons even as it struggles to feed its own people.
There has also been long-standing concern that aid could be diverted to feed the elite, although the WFP says it now has the best monitoring arrangements it has ever had.
Another problem: The plethora of humanitarian emergencies competing for international funds, such as Iraq, Syria and the Central African Republic.
However, Oshidari described stunting the UN is trying to combat in North Korea as a problem “you can’t fix later on.”
Conditions in the country have improved since the devastating famine of the 1990s, and food production has increased, but chronic malnutrition is estimated to be as high as 40 percent in some areas.
“I have been going to DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] for many years and you see these very short children. You really do not want to see a physically or intellectually disadvantaged future generation in that country,” Oshidari said, referring to North Korea by its official name.
He said South Korea is considering restarting its support of the WFP program, but he said there is little prospect that Japan or the US, major donors in the past, would follow suit.
Current bilateral donors include Switzerland, Australia and Canada.
The US was preparing to provide food aid in 2012 in exchange for a freeze in North Korea’s nuclear program, but the deal collapsed when the North conducted a long-range rocket launch.
Another practical headache for foreign aid groups in North Korea — which also include UNICEF and the WHO — are international sanctions against the North’s main foreign exchange bank.
The sanctions are intended to impede the North’s weapons programs, but it has become extremely difficult for aid groups and embassies to transfer money into the country since the US Treasury blacklisted the North Korean Foreign Trade Bank and the state-run Bank of China consequently stopped dealing with the bank.
An alternative arrangement using a Russian bank fell through earlier this year. Aid groups have resorted to carrying money by hand into the country.
Oshidari said UN officials continued discussions on the issue with US officials in New York this month, but without resolving it.
The US Department of State has said the onus should be on North Korea to make alternative financial services available to international organizations.
THE ANSWER? The drug uses neutralizing antibodies produced by the human immune system, which the team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a halt. A drug being tested by scientists at Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the coronavirus, researchers said. Sunney Xie (謝曉亮), director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, said that the drug had been successful in animal testing. “When we injected neutralizing antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” Xie said. “That means this potential drug has [a]
‘SERIOUS QUESTIONS’: Three US senators sent a letter to the US commerce secretary asking whether the project ‘takes into consideration national security requirements’ US Senator Chuck Schumer and two other Democratic colleagues have written to top US administration officials asking for details of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd’s (TSMC) plan to build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. Hsinchu-based TSMC on Thursday last week announced that it would build a plant to make 5 nanometer chips by 2024 that would have the capacity to produce 20,000 semiconductor wafers per month. The world’s biggest contract chipmaker already has one chipmaking fab in Camas, Washington, and design centers in Austin, Texas, and San Jose, California. It said it planned to start construction in Arizona next year and
MOM’S LONG CAMPAIGN: Mao Yin had been brought up in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, without any idea that he was the target of a decades-long, high-profile search A Chinese man who was stolen from his family as a toddler has been reunited with his parents after 32 years. Mao Yin (毛寅), then two-and-a-half years old, was snatched in 1988 when he was walking home from nursery with his father. His parents finally embraced him again on Monday in Xian, where he was born. After Mao vanished, his mother Li Jingzhi (李靜芝) quit her job and launched a decades-long search for her son, that included sending out more than 100,000 flyers and appearing on numerous TV shows. That long campaign helped 29 other families find their own missing children and made
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single