United States food aid flows into North Korea through the UN’s organisation, the World Food Programme (WFP), at a cost of $160 million a year.
It is the UN’s biggest food aid programme. By late last year, although there were signs that wholesale famine had been averted, there was little evidence that the scale of malnutrition differed significantly from that found in a 1998 international survey.
At that time, a staggering thirty-five percent of boys aged twelve to twenty-four months, and twenty-five percent of girls of the same age, were ‘wasted’. This technical term accurately evokes the suffering of acute malnutrition where lack of food – combined with disease and illness – threatens life unless there is urgent medical intervention. Survivors may be permanently physically and mentally damaged.