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Nearly half of N. Koreans undernourished, worst in Asia-Pacific: UN report

Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang. (AFP-Yonhap)
Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang. (AFP-Yonhap)
Nearly five out of ten North Koreans were undernourished from 2017 to 2019, the highest in the Asia-Pacific region, the UN said in an inter-agency report. East Timor and Afghanistan followed. In the same period, seven out of ten North Korean children aged two or below did not have minimum acceptable diet.

In the report released Wednesday by the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program, World Health Organization and UNICEF, seven out of ten infants younger than six months old in North Korea were breastfed. That was fourth-highest in the Asia-Pacific region, with Sri Lanka topping the list.

The higher the number of infants that were breastfed, the lower the country’s gross domestic product was, the report added.

The WFP told Radio Free Asia that more North Korean children could be facing stunted growth because of shutdowns of daycare centers and schools prompted by the coronavirus. Children and young students eat most of their daily food in school.

Pyongyang is under its highest alert level in its fight against the coronavirus, shutting down some public facilities and nearly all border traffic.

The number of overweight North Korean children was relatively low, but North Korean adults showed a slight rise. Twenty-five percent of adults in North Korea were either overweight or obese in 2002, and the number jumped to 32 percent in 2016. That was higher than South Korea’s 30 percent at the time.

In 2019, about 350.6 million people in the Asia-Pacific region are estimated to have been undernourished. An estimated 74.5 million children aged five and under have had their growth stunted. The majority of these children live in southern Asia, the report said.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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