North Korean Research Institute for Nutrition Care of Children director slams UN's report on child malnutrition due to COVID-19

Friday, April 9, 2021

North Korea on a map.
Image: Addicted04.

On Tuesday, a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Korea heavily criticised a report made by the United Nations on child malnutrition in North Korea, which found around 100 thousand children in North Korea are suffering from malnutrition. This malnutrition crisis is in part caused by COVID-19 border closures, according to The Korea Times.

In the statement, the director of the Research Institute for Nutrition Care of Children, which is a part of the Academy of Medical Science of the DPRK, described the report as "a sheer lie", "seriously distorted" and being "a black-hearted act of hostility to tarnish the image of our country". The statement further added: In our country, nutrition care of children is deemed a top priority despite difficult conditions and insufficiency. [...] But those self-styled experts wearing the berets of UN are distorting the situation of our country in order to create an impression that serious "malnutrition of children" exists in our country.

UN's report published on March 10 used the observations of Tomás Ojea Quintana, special rapporteur on the matter of human rights in North Korea. In the report, Quintana said COVID-19 led to deaths by starvation following the decline in business. UN's report mentioned "several individuals who were caught breaking anti-epidemic prevention measures were reportedly executed in public". These alleged executions are said to have taken place in cities including the country's capital city, Pyongyang, where a man was allegedly executed for having partaken in 'illicit trade' with China, the report elaborated.

In a The Korea Times article, an unnamed non-governmental organisation said "approximately 440 thousand children and pregnant and lactating women will not receive micronutrients, approximately 95 thousand acutely malnourished children will not receive necessary treatment and approximately 101 thousand kindergarten-aged children will not receive fortified foods".

Border restrictions in North Korea have been implemented as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19, but the restrictions have caused shortages of necessary goods such as medicine, Reuters reported quoting Russia's diplomatic mission to North Korea. These shortages have caused an "exodus" of foreign diplomats leaving North Korea, the same report added.