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14 July 2018, 12:43 | Glen Norman
The problem is the backwardness of the country's agriculture system
Lowcock is the first United Nations humanitarian aid coordinator to visit North Korea since 2011.
Much progress has been made compared with 20 years ago, but "significant humanitarian challenges" remain, Mark Lowcock, the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, said Wednesday at a news conference in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.
Mortality rates for under-fives are 20 percent higher in the countryside than in towns, it said, adding a shortage of funding had forced it to stop nutrition support to kindergartens since November 2017.
Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, told a press briefing that he held talks with DPRK officials and reviewed the impact of global humanitarian assistance as well as challenges facing the country.
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Almost 30 percent of the country's children were stunted from malnutrition in 2011 but the number has fallen to 20 percent now, Lowcock said, admitting however even the current figure is "still a higher number".
In a video posted on his Twitter account, Lowcock said, "One of the things we've seen is very clear evidence of humanitarian need here".
The North Koreans reportedly said "it is completely consistent to have a strategy of developing the economy and being self-reliant, and in the meantime seeking assistance with life-saving work".
"Of course though, 20 percent of children being malnourished is far too many".
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The Global Fund, however, pulled out of North Korea earlier this year, citing an inability to deploy resources or manage the "unique operating environment".
But both the United Nations and the World Food Programme (WFP) have expressed satisfaction with improving access this year, with Lowcock saying Wednesday in Pyongyang that there was "better access across the country for United Nations staff than we have had in the past".
And while access for humanitarian workers was improving, he noted that funding was falling short.
Lowcock and his team are expected to leave Pyongyang on Thursday.
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