North Korea faces famine if worst drought in years continues, says South Korea

North Korea faces famine if worst drought in years continues, says South Korea (Independent, 12, 2015):

North Korea faces famine if the country’s drought continues, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said this week.

Food shortages are common in North Korea, but if the current drought runs on into July then production will likely fall by 20 per cent, the International Business Times (IBT) reported South Korea as saying.

The United Nations food agency is gearing up to send emergency assistance should the situation worsen, David Kaatrud, director of the World Food Program (WFP) told Yonhap news agency.

The WFP already provides some help in the isolated nation – mainly to 2.4 million of the country’s most vulnerable women and children.

As shortages continue, water levels in the country’s lakes and reservoirs have apparently begun to noticeably drop. Rainfall hit a 15-year-low last year and, according to the IBT, levels this year look to be even lower. Farmers have reportedly been swapping rice crops to corn to save water.

“We need enough time to refine the intervention we’re doing now,” Kaatrud told Yonhap, adding that should famine strike, the WFP would “continue to be focused on a targeted nutrition intervention because that’s what’s required there.”

North Korea was hit by a devastating famine in the 1990s, in which hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have died. If food production does fall by 20 per cent, the famine could rival that of the 90s.

South Korea delivered 15 tonnes of fertiliser and farming equipment to its northern neighbour in April, United Press International (UPI) reported – the first delivery of its kind in five years.

Citizens are, the WFP said, “highly vulnerable to shocks and seasonal variations as these often mean reduced access to food, leaving the most vulnerable children and women with no other option than to reduce their food intake and further compromise their dietary diversity.”

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