Saturday December 7, 2019

North Korea’s Poor Early Harvest Increases Hunger, Malnutrition, Water Borne Diseases: IFRC

Current food crisis is likely to lead to rising malnutrition rates and water borne diseases, such as diarrhea and colitis

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hunger, malnutrition
FILE - North Korean farmers plant rice seedlings in a field at the Sambong Cooperative Farm, South Pyongan Province. VOA

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is warning about increased hunger, malnutrition, and waterborne diseases in North Korea due to a poor early harvest.

North Korea’s expected June-to-September harvest has been cut in half due to an early spring drought. The International Red Cross Federation reports the destruction of crops is having a devastating impact on thousands of the most vulnerable people.

It says the elderly, families with young children, breast-feeding mothers, those suffering from chronic illnesses or disabilities are in desperate need. Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said the humanitarian situation for many communities across North Korea is extremely critical. He said the U.N. estimates more than 40 percent of the population, around 11 million people, is in need of food aid.

“It has been and remains one of the world’s truly silent humanitarian emergencies,” he told VOA  “The work that we are doing now really is about trying to help very vulnerable communities survive the coming weeks and months, but it is a drop in the ocean, I think and much more support is needed.”

hunger, malnutrition
Current food crisis is likely to lead to rising malnutrition rates and water borne diseases, such as diarrhea and colitis. VOA

Cochrane said 20 percent of North Korea’s children are malnourished. He warned the current food crisis is likely to lead to rising malnutrition rates and water borne diseases, such as diarrhea and colitis.

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“Often you see in a drought [a] situation where — obviously there is a lack of water — the water that is available is polluted, is not really fit for human consumption,” he said. “But people really have no choice but to consume that water. So, by providing clean water, not just for the crops but also for all the people, we hope to have the added benefit of improving crop yields and improving food security. But also helping protect people against waterborne illnesses.”

The Red Cross Federation is appealing for nearly $500,000 to provide life-saving assistance for thousands of people in the most affected communities in North Phyongan province. Given the severity of the situation, it says quick action is needed to save what can be saved from the failed harvest and to ensure that people whose food stocks are almost gone do not go hungry. (VOA)

Next Story

Mia Farrow Promoting IRC’s Approach to Treating Severe and Moderate Acute Malnutrition

"Once you see a child dying of hunger in a world where it isn't necessary, in a world of abundance ... you have frustration," she said

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Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
FILE - Three-year-old Fatime Mahamat, suffering from severe malnutrition, cries as she rests in a nutritional health clinic run with the support of UNICEF, in Mao, Chad, Nov. 4, 2012. VOA

Groups of women had traveled for days to find care for their starving children in Chad, blankly staring in exhaustion and with little hope. But other women smiled, relieved to see their children “fattened” by a new and simplified initiative for hunger. Mia Farrow.

In an interview with The Associated Press, actress Mia Farrow recounted the scene during her visit to the Central African nation’s Mangalme area as an envoy for the International Rescue Committee.

“Once you see a child dying of hunger in a world where it isn’t necessary, in a world of abundance … you have frustration,” she said. “When I saw this simple solution … I said yes, there is an answer.”

She is promoting the IRC’s approach to treating severe and moderate acute malnutrition, one that contrasts with the widespread method using two different products administered by two different agencies.

Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
FILE – Human rights activist Mia Farrow talks with staff from the International Rescue Committee while visiting an internally displaced persons camp in Juba, South Sudan, April 2, 2019. VOA

UNICEF provides a fortified peanut butter treatment to children with severe acute malnutrition, while the World Food Program, another United Nations agency, provides a blended flours treatment to children with moderate acute malnutrition. A child with moderate acute malnutrition could arrive at a facility that only serves severe cases and not receive treatment.

Efficiency, cost

In Chad, about 350,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition. That number could grow as the landlocked Sahel nation faces a growing extremist threat in its Lake Chad region and refugees continue to arrive from neighboring countries. Rapid desertification exacerbates the hunger and poverty.

Chad ranks 186th of 189 countries in the 2018 Human Development Index and has one of the world’s highest levels of hunger, according to the World Food Program. More than 66% of the population of 15.5 million lives in severe poverty.

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The IRC hopes to make treating malnutrition more efficient and less costly. CEO David Miliband has said the new approach could save millions of lives over the next decade since only 20% of some 50 million acutely malnourished children worldwide have access to treatment.

The IRC hopes its pilot programs in Chad and Mali can help inform World Health Organization guidelines on treating malnutrition and allow health workers to deliver the treatments within communities and not just at clinics.

“We don’t have to watch children die,” Farrow said.

‘Promising’ approach

Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
In an interview with The Associated Press, actress Mia Farrow recounted the scene during her visit to the Central African nation’s Mangalme area as an envoy. Pixabay

World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the agency “fully supports testing and building the evidence for simplified approaches such as the one being put forward by IRC. The approach shows promise, and we’re enthusiastic about it as one of the strategies that may help improve treatment of acute malnutrition.”

Malnutrition is a major cause of maternal and child illness and death in Chad, he said. He acknowledged that in remote settings some women and children may walk for hours or days to a clinic only to find treatment for one type of malnutrition available — and could be turned away if they don’t fit the criteria.

“Simplified protocols could provide a promising solution to these issues,” he said. For them to be effective, “we need to ensure that these services are also available in communities, not just in health clinics.”

He noted that some evidence gaps remain on the effectiveness of the approach but said U.N. agencies are working with the IRC to generate needed data.

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The IRC pilot in Chad is being carried out in partnership with Chad’s health ministry, WFP and UNICEF. Nearly 2,000 malnourished children already have been admitted. (VOA)