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SEOUL: Millions of people remain dependent on external food aid in North Korea where nearly 28 percent of children under five are stunted from malnutrition, a UN official has said.
Desiree Jongsma, UN resident coordinator in North Korea, said two thirds of its 24 million population were chronically food insecure although timely imports had contributed to avoiding a crisis this year.
“Although the overall humanitarian situation has improved slightly over the last 12 months, the structural causes of people’s vulnerability persist”, she said on Friday.
According to a 2012 UN national nutrition survey, nearly 28 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and four percent are acutely malnourished.
Anaemia and under-nutrition are the major causes of maternal and child mortality, the survey said.
North Korea’s healthcare services and supplies are unable to meet basic needs, its infrastructure, including water and heating systems, need repair and education facilities are also “rapidly deteriorating”, Jongsma said.
UN agencies continue to assist those most vulnerable but they remain “seriously underfunded”, rendering them unable to address all humanitarian needs, she said.
In 2013, a total of $147m is needed, of which only 27.8 percent has been received so far, she said.