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North Korea food situation requires $10M, U.N. agency says

More than 10 million North Koreans are food insecure, the Food and Agricultural Organization says. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
More than 10 million North Koreans are food insecure, the Food and Agricultural Organization says. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- North Korea's food shortage could be worsening amid the coronavirus pandemic, and about $10 million is needed to help ordinary North Koreans, a United Nations agency says.

The Food and Agricultural Organization said in a recent report on North Korea the agency needs the funds to help 513,000 North Koreans, South Korean news service Seoul Pyongyang News reported Tuesday.

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According to the agency, the international health emergency is adding to the increasing pressure on North Korea's food security situation, due to containment measures to control COVID-19.

In January, North Korea shut its 880-mile border with China, the starting point of the global outbreak. The COVID-19 death toll exceeded 76,000 by Tuesday.

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Reports indicate North Korea may be partly reopening its border to allow in essential Chinese goods, but the country remains sealed off from the outside world, according to South Korean analysts.

The FAO also said 10.1 million North Koreans are food insecure, and that one-third of North Korean infants between 6 and 23 months of age are not receiving adequate nutrition.

Additionally, 20 percent of children experience stunted growth, the agency said.

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The coronavirus pandemic poses severe challenges for Pyongyang. North Korean medical facilities are rundown and inadequate to cope with an epidemic, defectors in the South have said.

On Tuesday, Korean Workers' Party paper Rodong Sinmun warned party members to not place personal interests ahead of the public good.

"Party members must bring about the strong winds of struggle in order to overcome irrational and scheming purposes that are inherent in our projects," the paper said.

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Radio Free Asia reported Monday three senior North Korean officials were executed on charges of treason, and for reportedly stealing food from an emergency shipment from China.

The officials sold the "high-quality food" intended for use on Kim Il Sung's birth anniversary on the local market, according to the report.

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