The Associated Press is reporting that millions of North Korean children are deprived of food and basic medical attention, and as a result, are not able to develop mentally and physically. The United Nations says that many of them are suffering from malnourishment and their growth has been stunted as a result.
Almost a third of North Korea’s children have shown signs of physical stunting, especially in rural areas. These children often suffer from chronic diarrhea from a lack of clean water, which contributes to poor nourishment. Even hospitals in the area lack the basic necessities to support the influx of health concerns. Most are without electricity and clean water, and medicine is in short supply.
Contributing to the probelm is the lack of media coverage from outside sources, which could lead to diplomatic aide. Cameras are not allowed beyond the relatively prosperous city of Pyongyang. There, children from well-to-do families are selected to attend government celebrations as a form of propaganda, while a more representative demographic is brushed under the rug.
The report calls further attention to the fact that the North Korean government is spending all of its money on military funding, leaving none for the country’s starving lower class. The United Nations has denounced North Korea’s involvement in building a nuclear arsenal to no avail.
The United Nations is calling for $198 million in donations this year to help aid the starving children of North Korea. This could not have come at a worse time for Kim Jong Un, who is trying to convey an image of stability after taking power from the now deceased Kim Jong-Il.
The wide spread famine is also being exacerbated by a severe drought during the spring. There will likely be a reduced harvest, this fall, which could lead to further problems. The North Korean government finally acknowledged the problem, when North Korea’s premiere, Choe Yong Rim, told farmers to do whatever they can to resolve the problem. But a lack of water is not something that anyone can do anything about.
About two-thirds of North Koreans depend on government rations, which consist of barley, corn or rice, to survive. Because of this, many children are growing up without any protein, a necessary component for normal mental and physical growth.
In the last few years, The United Nations and the World Food Program have asked for emergency food aid. The U.N. has made the most recent appeal. Back in 2011, The World Food Program asked anyone and everyone to contribute in an effort to reach $218 million in donations. They fell short and only reached $85 million. The U.N. has now taken up the reigns to extend aide.
The ineffective donation programs are coupled with the North Korean government’s refusal of aide to make a difficult situation worse. The state-run “news agency”, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), recently accused the west of manipulating food prices as a form of imperialism. The KCNA ran the slogan “Dry bread at home is better than roast meat abroad” in a recent editorial.