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Oregon Group Leads First Hunger Mission to North Korea in 8 Years

July 2, 2008

Portland, OR - The fight against hunger is reaching from Portland to North Korea. Two Northwest-based relief agencies, including Portland's Mercy Corps, are leading a U.S.-funded hunger-relief mission into North Korea -- the first in eight years.

Joy Portella with Mercy Corps says skyrocketing world food prices threaten to plunge that country into a major humanitarian crisis.

"There has been a rise in malnutrition and related illnesses. Birth rates are plummeting. And many nursing mothers aren't able to produce enough milk to feed their children."

Mercy Corps and other groups will distribute food to more than 500,000 North Koreans over the next year. The program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development office of Food for Peace, and more help is needed.

Portella says North Korea always has had trouble feeding its own people, but the situation has gotten much worse in the past year.

"In a city like Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, staples like corn and wheat have doubled in price."

She says other factors add to the problem, too. Last year's floods in North Korea hurt this year's harvest, and high prices on the global market have made it harder to get food from China.

More information on the program and how to help is available at
www.mercycorps.org.

Chris Thomas/Steve Powers, Public News Service - OR