U.S. humanitarian agency USAID has shipped more than 55,000 pounds of food to feed nearly 900,000 North Koreans suffering from severe food shortages.
Five humanitarian agencies, including three Christian aid groups, will be distributing the assistance once it reaches North Korea late next month.
"With North Korea's people in a precarious situation facing low food stocks and the onset of a harsh winter, our primary concern is the country's most vulnerable groups, children and mothers especially," said George Ward, senior vice president of international programs for World Vision in the United States. "We are moving urgently to ensure this assistance reaches those in most need at a critical time."
World Vision and Mercy Corps are co-leading distributions that will be conducted in two North Korean provinces. Samaritan's Purse, Christian Friends of Korea, and Global Resource Services are partner agencies.
The food shortage in North Korea is due to the combination several factors including severe flooding this year that devastated harvests, China's erection of barriers to food exports, and the global skyrocketing of prices for staples such as rice and maize.
Food shortage and famine have been long and deeply-rooted in the history of North Korea. In the 1990s, the reclusive country suffered a severe famine lasting several years that was estimated to have killed as many as two million people.
And in 2006, a World Food Program envoy said 37 percent of children under the age of six in North Korea were chronically malnourished and one-third of North Korean women were anemic and malnourished.
The U.S. food shipment this past week will focus on helping North Korea's most vulnerable people –children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and the elderly – who will receive daily rations from the shipment of bulk corn and soy.
Once the shipment arrives, the food will be rationed to recipients through public distribution centers, orphanages, school, hospitals and nurseries in Chagang and North Pyongan Provinces.
The shipment marks the fourth that the U.S. government has sent to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea this year. It also marks the first U.S. food shipment that will be entirely allotted for the NGO partnership to dispense.
North Korea was recently removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in exchange for the rogue regime's vow to continue its denuclearization process and allow international nuclear inspections.
North Korea had been on the blacklist since 1988.