World Food Programme Under Fire Over N.Korea Report

      May 13, 2011 10:44

      A World Food Programme report in March based on a survey of the food situation in North Korea has come in for harsh criticism in the U.S. At a seminar hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington on Wednesday, Nicholas Eberstadt of the equally conservative American Enterprise Institute accused the WFP of playing fast and loose with a "food balance sheet" to assess the shortage.

      The food balance sheet shows the pattern of a country's food supply during a specific period. It assesses each primary commodity availability for human consumption which corresponds to the sources of supply and its use.

      The WFP said the North was short of 886,000 tons of food after compiling the balance sheet based on data provided by the North in February and March.

      Eberstadt, a demographer, compared assessment of food problems using the balance sheet to predicting the unemployment rate based on GNP, in other words he accused the WFP of asking the wrong question.

      He said a lot more information is needed, including the mortality rate, people's height and weight, and the nutritional state of children. There are many problems with the figures the North provided, he added, for example a report claiming that the rate of low birth-weight babies (those weighing less than 2.5 kg) is 6 percent.

      If that is accurate, the rate is lower than among Asian-American babies who were born the same year and the North should give food aid to the U.S., he said. He added the information collected and supplied by the North Korean government is completely untrustworthy.

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