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DPR Korea: UN expert warns of dwindling aid while food crisis remains critical

20 October 2011 – Although the food situation in the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) is critical, international assistance is dwindling, a United Nations human rights expert warned today.

“The current rations provided by the Government can meet well less than half the daily calorific needs for the 68 per cent of the 16 million population receiving public food rations,” UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK Marzuki Darusman told a news conference in New York.

“While I appeal to the international community to provide humanitarian assistance including medical supplies, I recommended that the State also pay increased attention to providing adequate nutrition and health care to women and children suffering from chronic malnutrition,” he said citing structural problems in the food production system and total State control of the food production and the supply system, which has contributed to the crisis.

He noted that UN agencies have faced numerous obstacles in monitoring that aid reaches its intended recipients, and he called on the Government to provide more monitoring access, stressing the importance of expanding humanitarian space.

Mr. Darusman, who yesterday briefed the General Assembly’s third committee on his latest report on the DPRK, painted a grim picture of the lack of adequate infrastructure to support the country’s potential health-care needs.

“Virtually devoid of any new investment since the early 1990s, the ability of the DPRK to deal with potential large-scale health problems is severely compromised,” he said. “Lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities, shortages of electricity and lack of minimum physical facilities make it difficult to uphold proper hospital infection controls, and serious shortages in medical in essential medicines, basic medical equipment supplies persist.”

He also voiced concerns at the situation of asylum-seekers who slip across the border into China and are then preyed upon by human traffickers, with women and children particularly vulnerable.

Mr. Darusman voiced further concerns that the Government continued to impose severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. “I call upon the Government to ease such restrictions,” he said.

Satellite pictures indicate a significant increase in camps for political prisoners since 2001, with a network that is estimated to hold up to 250,000 people, and he called on the Government to begin releasing them.

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