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WFP chief urges North Korea to grant more access

AFP  |  Seoul 

needs to allow more access and monitoring for international aid, the of the UN's Programme said today following a four-day visit to the country.

The is one of the few agencies operating in the isolated country, which suffered a famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people -- estimates range into the millions -- in the mid-1990s.

But raising money for humanitarian in has become more challenging as has poured resources into its nuclear and missile programmes rather than feeding its people, and been hit with multiple rounds of UN sanctions as a result.

David Beasley, the chief, said was granting wider access than ever before, with his organisation able to carry out 1,800 site visits last year, but it needed to allow more.

"We still need greater access, more information, more data," he told a press conference in

"I said very clearly... you have people around the that are concerned that the and the money won't go to its intended consequences." Around the world, the number of "severely hungry" people had spiked from 80 million to 124 million in the last three years, he said, while the was two to three billion dollars short of its funding goals.

Without access, he said, "the chances of receiving funds necessary, or necessary, to move the ball forward in is going to be a difficult game".

The UN sought $114 million in from donors last year for but received only $31 million, and so was able to help only 15 percent of those it targeted for

But the WFP chief said he felt "a tremendous sense of optimism" in his meetings with North Korean officials in the hopes of "turning a new chapter in history".

Dialogue brokered by has seen US-North Korea relations go from trading personal insults and threats of war last year to a summit between Kim and due in on June 12.

Experts say that North Korea needs to produce around 6.5 to 6.7 million tonnes of food to feed its population, but usually grows around one million tonnes less than that, leading to chronic shortfalls.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's 2017 report on global and nutrition, 10.3 million North Koreans are now considered to be undernourished -- around 41 percent of the population.

Sanctions imposed on over its weapons ambitions "slows down the time to get items such as food in because some companies obviously are very concerned about being blacklisted", Beasley said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 15 2018. 15:55 IST