The European Commission will provide emergency food aid to more than half a million people at risk of dying from serious malnutrition in North Korea, amid growing fears of a worsening hunger crisis. The terms for delivering the food assistance are unprecedented, with strict monitoring procedures in place.
The objective of the €10 million aid package is to lift around 650 000 people, mainly in the Northern and Eastern provinces of the country, out of the hunger during the most difficult period of the worst year for food production in recent times. The next main cereal harvest is due in October.
Food assistance will reach children under five who have already been hospitalised with severe acute malnutrition. Children in residential care will also be fed, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, hospital patients and the elderly.
"The purpose of this aid package is to save the lives of at least 650 000 people who could otherwise die from lack of food. Our experts saw severely malnourished children in hospitals and nurseries where no treatment was available," said Kristalina Georgieva, European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
"Clearly, North Korea's chronic nutrition problem is turning into an acute crisis in some parts of the country. But because of well-founded concerns I have insisted that a strict monitoring operation is pursued from the point of delivery of the food aid at the ports all the way to the neediest recipients.
This has been a key issue in our negotiations with the North Korean authorities. It will be precision-targeted aid delivered directly to the most vulnerable: children under five, pregnant and breast-feeding women, the infirm and the old.
If at any stage we discover that the aid is being diverted from its intended recipients then the Commission will not hesitate to end its humanitarian intervention," said Commissioner Georgieva. "We simply cannot allow people to die of hunger and for this reason we are determined to monitor the delivery at every stage."
As the food assistance will have to be channelled through a highly centralised distribution system managed by the authorities, strict safeguards and controls have been agreed with the World Food Programme (WFP) in order to mitigate the risks of food diversion.