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U.N. to double food aid to North Korea

Team says country gripped by famine

Korean Child

BEIJING (CNN) -- Millions of North Korean children have been left starving and emaciated as famine continues to strengthen its grip on the country, according to United Nations representatives who just completed a three-day visit.

Film footage taken during the trip shows large numbers of clearly malnourished children, their growth stunted by lack of food. Children who were 11 looked like they were six; those who were six looked like they were three.

After its team returned to Beijing from North Korea, the U.N.'s World Food Program decided to double the amount of emergency food assistance it was providing to fight hunger in North Korea. Its goal is to collect $40 million in food aid before summer, when the country may run completely out of food.

The U.N. wants the money to be used to provide food to all North Korean children under six.

map

"The people of North Korea are fast running out of food," said Catherine Bertini, director of the program. "It is the children who are most at risk. Helping them is a matter of urgency."

Floods accelerated decline in food supply

U.N. representatives visited the southern part of North Korea, an area badly affected by flooding in 1995. Those floods accelerated a long, chronic decline in North Korea's food supply, triggering a food shortage that has affected almost the country's entire population of 24 million.

Field

In order to survive, people are eating dried leaves and roots. The daily government ration amounts to about a bowl of rice per day. Meat is almost non-existent. One woman told the U.N. team that her family had not had meat since August 1995.

North Korean farmers are struggling to ready their land for crops this month, but lack of fuel and the deaths of many farm animals are slowing down the work.

Correspondent Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.

 
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