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Saturday, September 16, 2000

UN agency appeals for nearly $100 million for food aid to DPR of Korea
15 September -- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for nearly $100 million to feed people at risk in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, where serious droughts have affected irrigation reservoirs, drying up potential rice fields.

Issued at WFP Headquarters in Rome, the appeal is for an additional 194,876 metric tonnes of food - enough to cover the immediate needs of some 7.9 million people over the next four months. "Winters are particularly harsh in [DPRK]," warned Catherine Bertini, WFP Executive Director. "Unless we get additional funding immediately, millions of people will face severe food shortages."

WFP's appeal comes in response to fears that the country's upcoming maize and rice harvests could drop significantly due to erratic weather patterns and the government's limited ability to import agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, the agency said, damage to crops from drought conditions has been compounded by a severe tropical storm that hit the north-east of the country in late August.

To date, only large-scale food aid donations from the international community have averted a famine for Koreans, WFP said. The agency's call for food brings the total requirements to 876,933 metric tonnes, at a cost of $358 million for its current operation, which began in July 1999 and runs through December 2000.

Meanwhile, Ms. Bertini will travel to Africa on Sunday in her capacity as the Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Drought in the Greater Horn of Africa for a week-long visit to Ethiopia and Kenya, the two worst affected countries in the region.

"This is a fact finding mission to see the status of the situation so that Ms. Bertini can go back to the donors and explain what the needs are," WFP spokesperson in New York, Abby Spring, told the UN News Service.

More than 14 million people are threatened throughout the region. In Kenya, WFP has reported a "sluggish and insufficient" donor response to its request for $88 million to feed 3.3 million people. In Ethiopia, an estimated 10 million people are affected by drought.

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