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Starving N. Korea resorts to grass

Subject: Starving N. Korea resorts to  grass, acorn additives 

             Starving N. Korea resorts to
               grass, acorn additives

               Red Cross: Famine has spread to government officials

               In this story:

                    'Cattle food' making people sick 
                    Floods and drought 
                    At a hospital, beds for 10, but only
                    food for 3 
                    Related stories and sites 

               November 10, 1998
               Web posted at: 12:59 p.m. EST (1759 GMT) 

               SINUIJU CITY, North Korea (CNN) --
               The impact of North Korea's famine, soon entering its fourth
winter, has now
               spread to government officials who stretch their meager food
rations by mixing
               them with grass and acorns, senior Red Cross officials said

               "The situation is critical," said Astrid Heiberg, president
of the International
               Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She and
other Red Cross
               officials returned to Beijing after spending several days
inspecting the aid
               agency's operations in North Korea. 

               They described elderly North Koreans looking
               swollen, a sign of long-term hunger, and a
               generation of children whose growth has been
               stunted, causing 10-year-olds to look like
               6-year-olds and 5-year-olds like 2-year-olds. 

               "A generation of North Korean children is
               scarred for life, malnourishment is common and
               we need to continue to mobilize resources to
               prevent an even greater catastrophe," Heiberg
               told reporters. 

               Despite the enormous scope of the problem, the isolated
communist country
               shows little willingness to adopt far-reaching changes to
revive its ruined
               economy, said Margareta Wahlstrom, the Red Cross'
undersecretary of disaster

               'Cattle food' making people sick

                                            Everywhere, from bakeries to
                                            ministries, people were being
                                            noodles and biscuits made from
                                            mixed with acorns, grass and
                                            Heiberg said. She likened the
additives to
                                            "cattle food," and noted that
                                            reported a rise in stomach
illnesses from
                                            the mixtures. 

                                            Some of the substitute food
                                            contain only
50-percent-digestible grains,
                                            Heiberg said. "You would not
give them
               to your children or your elderly mother, knowing she would
get cramps in her
               stomach and diarrhea." 

               Heiberg urged the international community to continue its
fight against starvation
               in North Korea, saying even well-heeled officials were

               "This was not something done in just one place; there were
factories that
               produced it," she said, emphasizing the widespread lack of
food throughout all
               levels of society. 

               Floods and drought

               Floods and drought since 1995 have
               devastated North Korean agriculture. Its
               industry has ground to a halt, along with
               international trade, leaving the once
               fiercely self-reliant country dependent on
               handouts from other countries. 

               With few goods or money to barter or
               buy supplies from other nations, the
               country lacks sufficient fertilizer for crops,
               and fuel and parts for machinery. 

               International aid agencies expect the grim situation to
continue, because the
               1998 grain harvest is likely to reach just 3 million tons,
or two-thirds of North
               Korea's minimum need. 

               About 4.5 million tons of grain are required to feed North
Korea's 20 million
               people, according to the United Nations' World Food Program. 

               At a hospital, beds for 10 but only food for 3

               Heiberg said the food shortage has led to a breakdown of the
country's health
               care system. Hospitals are unable to feed patients, many of
whom suffer from
               stomach ailments because of the coarse food substitutes. 

               "What impressed me the most was a small hospital in the
countryside that had 10
               beds, but only food for three patients," she said. 

               "So they only had three patients in the hospital even if the
demand in the area
               was great. This again underlines the need for food." 

               Heiberg said the Red Cross will nearly double its aid to
health institutions in the
               country next year to $9 million. The money will be used for
basic medicines,
               heating coal and essential repairs to hospital buildings. 

               The federation also was considering plans to bring food to
the hospitals it was

                  Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon, the Associated
Press and
                                Reuters contributed to this report.

               Related stories: 

                    Relief agency leaving N. Korea, saying aid used for
political agenda -
                    September 30, 1998 
                    Famine may have killed 2 million in North Korea -
August 19, 1998 
                    U.N.: North Korea's food crisis far from over - June
14, 1998 
                    CNN gets rare glimpse of North Korea - August 13, 1997 
                    U.S. delegation: North Korea too secretive about food
aid - August 12, 1997 
                    Scores of children dead in North Korea famine - April
8, 1997 
                    U.N. to double food aid to North Korea - March 18, 1997 
                    North Korea at risk of famine - May 14, 1996 

               Related sites: 

               Note: Pages will open in a new browser window 

                    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 
                    Interaction: North Korea Famine 
                    North Korea Famine Emergency Response News (UMCOR) 
                    World Vision U.S. - The Silent Famine in North Korea 
                    Hunger Relief Fund for North Korea 
                    Food Production: North Korea's Top Priority in 1997 
                    ReliefWeb: North Korea's Prospects for National
                    Things Korean 
                    PBS Online Forum: Korea 

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