By Andrew Yeh, The Financial Times, March 8, 2005
Malnutrition levels in North Korea are at “disturbingly high” levels, despite mild signs of improvement in the nutritional status of young children, according to a survey conducted by two UN agencies. A random sample survey carried out by the United Nation's World Food Program and UNICEF, in collaboration with Pyongyang authorities, concluded that malnutrition rates of children had improved somewhat since 2002 but that the overall situation remained dire.
Some 37 per cent of children under the age of six suffered from chronic malnutrition last year, down from 42 per cent in 2002, the survey showed. North Korea, one of the world's most closed regimes, has faced widespread food shortages for decades and relies heavily on foreign assistance to feed its population. The UN estimates its food programme helps support some 6.5m North Koreans. “We can conclude that intervention works and now is not the time to back off from it,” said Richard Ragan, the UN food programme director in North Korea, on the importance of food aid to the isolated communist state. “The goal would be to, once the situation improves, have the government or private enterprises able to take over that function,” Mr Ragan, an American working in North Korea, told a press conference in Beijing.------------------