North Korea Lashes Out on UN Report About Child Malnutrition

North Korea
April 6, 2021 Topic: North Korea Region: Asia Blog Brand: Korea Watch Tags: North KoreaHungerUNNutritionChild Malnutrition

North Korea Lashes Out on UN Report About Child Malnutrition

Food security is a big problem for many North Koreans, but Pyongyang is not eager to let the world know that is true.

The North Korean official who supervises child nutrition efforts in that country has pushed back on a United Nations report that warned there was a malnutrition crisis in that country. The UN report estimated that as many as 100,000 kindergarten-aged children reportedly lack access to fortified foods.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the director of the Research Institute for Nutrition Care of Children has responded in North Korea’s state media.

“I, as a person responsible for nutrition care of the children in our country, categorically reject this information, affirming that it, a sheer lie, is utterly baseless,” the official said in a statement released by the Korean Central News Agency. The health official went on to refer to the report as a “black-hearted act of hostility to tarnish the image of our country.”

The official did not appear to have been named in the report, but is part of North Korea’s health ministry, per Yonhap.

“In my opinion, it is necessary to seriously examine whether ‘humanitarian cooperation’ under the signboard of UN and NGOs would truly help us and to take resolute countermeasures against the entity and organizations going about in cahoots with the hostile forces,” the official said.

The U.N. report in question appears to be one from early March, alleging “deaths by starvation,” executions, and other human rights violations that have taken place in North Korea since the start of the pandemic. According to the Yonhap report, the U.N. cited a survey of NGOs about conditions in North Korea.

The NGOs had also stated that North Korea’s border controls and other restrictions have made it difficult for aid to be delivered to the country.

“Due to COVID-19 related restrictions, the organization assesses ... that approximately 440,000 children and pregnant and lactating women will not receive micronutrients, approximately 95,000 acutely malnourished children will not receive necessary treatment and approximately 101,000 kindergarten-aged children will not receive fortified foods,” the report said of nutrition in North Korea.

Back in 2019, the United Nations released another assessment of nutrition conditions in North Korea, especially following what was described as the worst harvest there in a decade. This led to “severe food shortages” for some ten million North Koreans.

The 2019 assessment, which included input from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, concluded that “the reduced harvest, coupled with increased losses following the harvest, has left the country with a food deficit of 1.36 million metric tonnes, taking into account DPRK’s ability to import food from outside the country… In addition to unfavourable climatic conditions, limited supplies of agricultural inputs, such as fuel, fertilizer and spare parts have had ‘significant adverse impact.’”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.