Monday, September 12, 2011

WFP captures heartbreak of North Korean hunger

A four-year-old boy looks straight into the camera. His eyes are dull, his tiny legs crossed underneath him. Choi is an orphan, severely malnourished and too weak to stand.

This is just one of the heartbreaking sights captured on film by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) as they traveled around North Korea last month delivering aid to the most needy.

The most deprived are children -- WFP estimates a third of those under the age of five in North Korea are severely malnourished, and says it will only worsen if more aid is not delivered soon.

A pediatric hospital in South Hwanghae province sees a steady flow of young patients. The footage shows health care workers pulling on the mottled, loose skin of a crying child's stomach and another child on an intravenous drip. Many are suffering from diarrhea and skin disease from drinking polluted water.

A group of seven-year-olds are filmed sitting inside, huddled together, too weak to play outside, according to WFP. They look far younger than seven.

"There is a very high rate of children and also adults who are much shorter than you would expect them to be, and why does this happen, because it's a long story of suffering," says Claudia von Roehl, WFP's country director for North Korea. more