Worst drought in 16 years threatens food supplies in North Korea, warns UN

This undated photo shows rice plants growing from the cracked and dry earth in Ryongchon-ri, North Korea, in the country's Hwangju County (Photo by AP)
This undated photo shows rice plants growing from the cracked and dry earth in Ryongchon-ri, North Korea, in the country’s Hwangju County (Photo by AP)

North Korea is facing severe food shortages due to the worst drought since 2001, the UN’s food agency says.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday that the drought was expected to seriously impact Nampo city and the provinces of South and North Pyongan and Hwanghae. The worst-hit regions account for almost two-thirds of main season crops.

The UN body has stated that rainfall in key producing areas fell well below the long-term average between April and June. The rainfall shortages badly affected staple crops, including rice, maize, potatoes and soybean.

This disrupted planting activities and damaged the 2017 main season crops, according to a FAO report prepared with the European Commission’s Joint Research Center.

FAO has recommended using drought-tolerant crops and varieties and finding ways for farmers and households to diversify their livelihoods to cope with climate change and natural disasters.

The report suggested that increased food imports would be required over the next three months to ensure adequate food supplies for the most vulnerable, including children and elderly.

“Immediate interventions are needed to support affected farmers and prevent undesirable coping strategies for the most vulnerable, such as reducing daily food intakes,” Vincent Martin, FAO representative in China and North Korea, said in a statement.

“It is critical now that farmers receive appropriate and timely agricultural assistance, including irrigation equipment and machinery,” he added.

North Korea, which suffered a devastating famine in the 1990s, has relied on international food aid to feed many of its 25 million people.

The support has, however, fallen sharply in recent years.

The UN’s World Food Program said it has also seen a steep drop in contributions.

This was due to reluctance to allow monitoring of food distribution. It is also in part due to US-led sanctions implemented to punish North Korea over its weapons development program.

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