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North Korea's food shortages ease, says aid agency
In August, the head of the U.N. agency that works to feed the world's hungry said people in North Korea were foraging for nuts and leaves to counter a serious food shortage that had caused the government to cut food rations in parts of the impoverished country to less than two bowls of rice a day.

The situation has eased since then as North Korea has brought in parts of its harvest and significant amounts of rice aid from South Korea have also arrived in the country.

"The overall food security situation has improved somewhat throughout the country following the recently completed harvest of potatoes, wheat and barley and with the ongoing harvest of vegetables," the World Food Programme said in a report released over the weekend.

Rice sent in recent months from South Korea was being distributed in parts of the country, it said.

The organisation's report said it still needed donations or it would not be able to provide food to many of North Korea's children, pregnant women, urban poor and elderly.

The World Food Programme has said the food shortage is not as severe as one in the mid-1990s. More than one million North Koreans are thought to have died in a famine brought about by years of poor harvests and mismanagement of the country's agricultural sector, aid workers say.

North Korea has about 22.5 million people and the U.N. agency aims to feed about 6.5 million of them.

Last week, a human rights group said North Korea had been abusing international food aid while cutting back on its own imports of food and diverting funds elsewhere, including to the military.

In a report, the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea accused Pyongyang of hindering aid efforts by both foreign governments and non-governmental organisations to reach those who needed help most in the communist state.
MGR Archive 8.9.2005
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