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UN to start food aid to flooded North Korea as access eases

The UN World Food Programme will start emergency food aid to isolated North Korea, which has been pummeled by a typhoon and flooding.

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The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has said it will send a first batch of emergency food aid to impoverished North Korea, where a series of deluges and a typhoon have left hundreds of people dead or missing.

The North's state media reported on Saturday that the death toll from flooding between late June and the end of last month had increased to 169. KCNA news agency said the number of missing had risen to some 400, while 212,200 had been left homeless.

In a statement published on its website on Friday, WFP said it would send emergency assistance comprising "an initial ration of 400 grams of maize per day for 14 days." A recent UN report classified 7.2 million of the country's 24 million population as "chronic poor," and said 1 in 3 children was stunted from poor nutrition.

A United Nations mission that recently visited the affected regions found considerable damage to maize, soybean, and rice fields, the WFP statement said.

KCNA reported on Saturday the floods had washed away 65,280 hectares (about 161,000 acres) of farmland. It added that more than 1,400 educational, healthcare, and factory buildings had also collapsed or been damaged.

Since the mid-1990s, North Korea's agricultural sector has become increasingly vulnerable to floods and drought as a result of widespread deforestation.

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