UN appeals for help to prevent starvation in North Korea

The UN World Food Program has appealed for help to rescue millions of North Koreans from the brink of starvation.

The United Nations World Food Program has appealed for more help from donors to rescue millions of North Koreans from the brink of starvation.

"Millions of children, women and elderly people are barely subsisting because they lack both the quantity and quality of nourishment they deserve," said Richard Ragan, the WFP's Pyongyang-based country director, in a news release.

The WFP says it needs 500,000 tonnes of food, worth $202 million US, to help feed 6.5 million North Koreans.

Ragan, says existing stocks and commitments will allow the organization to give full cereal rations until June. "But without additional pledges soon, the kind of distribution cuts that have plagued our operation over the past three years, depriving millions of vital assistance for long periods, will be inevitable," he said.

North Korea has relied on foreign aid to feed its people for a decade and earlier this week it cut daily food rations to its people to almost starvation levels, from 300 grams to 250 grams per person, which is half the minimum daily energy requirement.

Ragan said at the time the cut appears to be temporary and is not unprecedented in a country where fluctuations in public food distribution have been a regular occurrence, but the cut is likely to remain in effect until the middle of the year.

North Korea suffers from persistent food shortages and about two-thirds of the country's 23.7 million people depend on rations supplied by the government.

with files from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation