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UN warns its food aid program in N. Korea at risk

WASHINGTON -- The World Food Program may have to shut down its operations in North Korea by early next year unless it gets more funding from international donors by this autumn, the U.N. agency's director for Asia said Friday.

WFP, which has the largest presence of any U.N. agency in the isolated country, has already scaled back its planned two-year, US$200 million program to feed 2.4 million people because it has only enough funds to cover about a quarter of the cost.

Regional director Kenro Oshidari told The Associated Press by phone from Bangkok, Thailand, that to run a credible nutritional program, aimed at preventing stunting in children, it needs about US$50 million more. That would target about 670,000 children less than 2 years of age and pregnant and lactating mothers.

Without a replenishment of funds by October or November, WFP could be forced to shut down operations by January or February 2015, he said. The existing program is due to run until June.

North Korea has alienated much of the international community over its pursuit of nuclear weapons even as it struggles to feed its own people. There's also been long-standing concern that aid could be diverted to feed the elite, although the WFP says it now has the best monitoring arrangements it's ever had.

Another problem: The plethora of humanitarian emergencies competing for international funds, such as Iraq, Syria and the Central African Republic.

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