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U.N. agency: More North Koreans not getting enough nutrition

By
Elizabeth Shim
A North Korean waits for a small pontoon to cross a tributary on the banks of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea faces food shortages owing to issues embedded in the country’s agriculture, including insufficient arable land. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
A North Korean waits for a small pontoon to cross a tributary on the banks of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea faces food shortages owing to issues embedded in the country’s agriculture, including insufficient arable land. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, April 21 (UPI) -- The number of undernourished people in North Korea has increased and 18 million North Koreans are susceptible to food shortages.

The United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization said 41.6 percent of people were not getting enough nutrition in 2014-16, up from 35.5 percent in 2005-07.

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According to findings from the U.N. humanitarian country team for North Korea, food insecurity is responsible for chronic malnutrition and poor health outcomes. The vast majority of North Koreans need some kind of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. report stated.

North Korea's food shortage stems from long-running issues in the country's agriculture, which include insufficient arable land, soil degradation due to intensive cultivation and scarcity of quality seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

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Recurring dry spells, seasonal floods and other "climate change-driven shocks" are also problematic – by the end of 2015, two consecutive seasons of drought had "severely affected crop performance," according to the report.

The findings did indicate North Korea's Public Distribution System was still providing food for the population, but rarely did the state reach its level of 573 grams per person per day.

Cristina Coslet, the FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System officer in charge of East Asia, has previously stated North Korea reduced official rations to 370 grams daily per person.

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The U.N.-recommended amount is 600 grams daily per person.

The report also stated women and children under the age of 5 are the most vulnerable to the health effects of malnutrition, but malnutrition or stunting among children in the age group had fallen to 27.9 percent in 2012, down from 32.4 percent in 2009.

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