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Nutrition Survey in the DPRK

Two previous articles in Field Exchange focused on the food emergency in DPRK. The first article (Field Exchange Jan. '98) highlighted the fact that lack of access and the consequent absence of any rigorous surveys made it difficult to verify claims of widespread starvation and famine. The second article (Field Exchange Oct. '98) based on the first hand experience of an ECHO monitor travelling extensively in 6 of the 9 provinces cast doubt on claims of 'widespread malnutrition'. However, a nutritional survey conducted in September/October 1998 has confirmed the existence of a serious nutritional situation in the DPRK. This survey is the most representative one carried out during the course of the current DPRK crisis.
The sample selection for the survey was based on 130 counties to which access could be guaranteed, representing 71% of the country's population and 61% of all counties. Multi-stage sampling was used to identify clusters at the level of the Ris/Dongs. Household selection took place at the office of the RI/Dong where a complete and up to date list of all households was made available to the teams. Systematic sampling was used to select the 30 households from each cluster.
The survey found that moderate and severe wasting or acute malnutriton, affected approximately 16% of the children including three percent with oedema. Male children were almost twice as likely to be malnourished as female ones (20%versus 11%). Moderate or severe stunting (or chronic malnutrition), affected about 62% of all children surveyed, while the prevalence of moderate and severe underweight or low weight for age, was approximately 61%.
These data indicate that underweight was more prevalent in this surveyed population than in the most severely affected countries in East Asia (40% in Cambodia and Laos) . The prevalence of chronic malnutrition is even higher than levels found in India (56%)and Bangladesh (53%).

For more information contact Peter Dijkhuizen

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Nutrition Survey in the DPRK. Field Exchange 6, February 1999. p13. www.ennonline.net/fex/6/nutrition