North Korea life expectancy falls
Figures from latest census show increase in infant and maternal mortality rates.
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2010 08:43 GMT
Foreign aid donations have been cut in response to North Korea's recent weapons tests [Reuters/KCNA]

Average life expectancy for North Koreans has declined over the past decade and a half with infant and maternal mortality both increasing markedly, figures from the isolated nation's latest census have shown.

According to statistics released by the UN from a census conducted in 2008, overall life expectancy in the North fell by 3.4 years to 69.3.

The previous census conducted in 1993 put life expectancy at 72.7 years.

The figures showed infant mortality rose from 14 per 1,000 live births in 1993 to 19, while the maternal mortality rate grew from 54 to 77 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The census was conducted with help from the United Nations Population Fund.

It found that North Korea's population had increased from 21.2 million to 24.05 million over the 15 year period between the two censuses, despite a famine in the mid- to late 1990s which is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Aid groups say food shortages remain a serious problem in the country, with cuts in overseas donations to the North mean the situation has worsened in recent months.

Many countries have cut back on aid donations to the North in protest at its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

A report released last September by the UN's World Food Programme said one third of the country's children under five and a similar proportion of women are malnourished.

The latest census figures also showed living conditions for North Koreans were basic, with 65 per cent of households living in cramped two-room units.

Some 73 per cent of homes had a floor area of between 50-75 square metres, about 85 percent of homes had access to running water while 58 per cent had flush toilets.

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