SEOUL, May 19 (UPI) -- Russia has sent North Korea 2,400 tons of food aid at a time when the country is still facing critical food shortages.
The Russian embassy in Pyongyang made the announcement this week that 2,394 tons of flour and other food items have been sent to the North Korean port city of Chongjin, Sputnik news agency reported Thursday.
The flour was sent through the United Nations World Food Program and was made possible with a Russian donation, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
This is the second time in 2016 Russia has delivered a shipment. In March, Moscow provided funds for the delivery of 2,500 tons of flour to North Korea.
The flour is to be used to produce nutritious biscuits and cereals that can be distributed to child daycare centers in North Hamgyong and Kangwon provinces, according to the report.
North Korea maintains a state rationing system, but the rations do not provide adequate nutrition.
Some sources have said the price of rice in the gray markets, where most ordinary North Koreans procure their food, has risen dramatically, but it wasn't confirmed whether the price increase is the result of economic sanctions that passed in March.
The most vulnerable groups are women and children, according to the World Food Program.
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 Damian Kean, WFP's regional communications officer for Asia.
Last 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.