- UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- North Korea's autumn harvest will be used up by April
and after that the famine-stricken country will have to rely primarily
on international food aid, the World Food Program said Tuesday.
- During the lean period until the next
harvest in October, North Koreans will be forced to eat more wild mushrooms,
tree bark, seaweed and cakes made of grass, said WFP spokeswoman Abby Spring.
- "These can placate hunger but they
are not nutritious and can cause illness," she said.
- In the autumn harvest, there was a severe
shortage of rice in the communist state because only 10 percent of rice
fields were cultivated due to a lack of fuel and spare parts for machinery,
- Food shortages and famine-related illnesses
have killed up to 2 million of North Korea's 23 million people during the
past three years, according to U.S. congressional estimates. Two-thirds
of all children under age 7 are malnourished, and lack of food has stunted
the growth of millions more.
- Two million children are receiving international
food aid at schools, but the World Food Program said staff members have
started recording increasing malnutrition especially among youngsters between
the ages of 7 and 12.
- "The food they're getting at school,
they take home and it is shared with their family," Spring said. "This
most likely explains why we are seeing this age group more and more in
hospitals suffering from malnutrition."
- To help alleviate the problem, WFP plans
to start producing protein biscuits in North Korea that will be given to
these children to eat in their classrooms, she said.
- Last year, WFP received 660,000 tons
of food, but the deliveries were mainly wheat and cereals -- not beans,
vegetable oils and soya wheat, which are also important for famine victims.
- For 1999, WFP said it needs about $225
million, or 588,000 tons of food.
- To date, it has 358,000 tons of food
worth $101.3 billion in the pipeline, mainly cereals from the United States,
- The U.N. agency plans to carry out food
and crop assessments in the spring and fall "to better tailor the
exact needs" of the North Korean people, she said.