A UN expert has warned that vulnerable children and the elderly in North Korea are at risk of starvation, BBC News reported.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in the country blamed worsening food shortages on international sanctions and a Covid blockade.

As a result, North Koreans struggle every day to “live a life of dignity” according to Tomas Ojea Quintana.

He urged the lifting of sanctions imposed over North Korea’s nuclear programs in order to avert a crisis.

North Korea is believed to be in dire financial straits.

It closed its borders in order to stop the spread of Covid-19. As a result, trade with China has plummeted. North Korea is entirely dependent on China for food, fertilizer, and fuel.

Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader, admitted this week that the country was in a “grim situation” according to the state news agency.

Food prices have reportedly risen, with NK News reporting in June that a kilogram of bananas costs $45 (£32).

Mr Quintana stated in his most recent report that the UN Security Council should consider easing international sanctions and allowing “humanitarian and life-saving assistance.”

Reports of North Korea people ‘starving’

Hazel Smith, a North Korean expert from SOAS University in London who spent the majority of 1998 to 2001 inside the country developing agricultural data analysis for UNICEF and the World Food Programme, painted a stark picture of what she knows is going on.

“Children under seven, pregnant and nursing women, the frail, the elderly … these are the people that are starving, right now,” said Smith, whose previous research took her all over the country.

In North Korea “10 million people are considered food insecure … 140,000 children under 5 suffer acute malnutrition … and higher rates of malnutrition and mortality are anticipated for 2021,” UNICEF said in its Humanitarian Situation Report published in February.

“There are so many more beggars, some people died from hunger in the border area,” Human Rights Watch senior researcher Lina Yoon said of an witness account from a missionary working inside North Korea.

Talks to United States

President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that the US is willing to talk to North Korea, but that Pyongyang must first give up its nuclear weapons before sanctions can be lifted. So far, North Korea has refused.

Earlier this week, Mr Kim blamed the US for inflaming tensions, saying the country needed to continue developing self-defense weapons.

Despite its economic woes, North Korea has continued to expand its arsenal of weapons and missiles.

It recently conducted tests on what it claims are new hypersonic and anti-aircraft missiles.