SEOUL, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- One in three North Korean children under age 5 suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition, and one-third of North Korean women are afflicted by anemia, according to the World Food Program.
Damian Kean, WFP's regional communications officer for Asia, told Voice of America that vulnerable groups in North Korea could have been hard hit by a severe drought in 2015, which has reduced the yields of staple crops, such as rice and corn. The Food and Agriculture Organization had recently forecast North Korea's crop yields were down by 10-15 percent from average levels.
Kean said the WFP plans to renew an expiration date for North Korea food aid and fundraising to June 2016, and added the U.N. body is investigating malnutrition in North Korea. Based on their findings, Kean said, a new nutrition support program would be launched.
South Korean news agency Yonhap reported the WFP has previously extended a deadline for a food aid program that began in July 2013, citing the critical situation in North Korea and its impact on women and children.
Kean said the U.N. organization had only reached half its target fundraising goal for 2015. The WFP had planned to raise $160 million for North Korea food aid, but has raised about half that amount, or $88 million. The fundraising deadline has subsequently been extended to June 2016, and an additional $23.3 million is needed by then, Kean said.
In September, the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., issued a report that stated 1 in 4 North Korean children suffer from acute anemia, and compared to developing countries China and Mongolia, children are three times more likely to be developmentally challenged.