North Korea says it’s suffering its worst drought in nearly 40 years. The country is also experiencing severe food shortages. According to the official Korean Central News Agency, an average of 54.4 mm of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year.
The alarm being raised over this drought comes after UN food agencies said in a joint report this month, that about 10 million people in North Korea were “in urgent need of food assistance” after the country experienced one of the worst harvests in a decade.
Speaking to Vatican News vaticannews.va, the media and advocacy spokesperson for the International Federation of the Red Cross, Matthew Cochrane said, what the people of the country are experiencing is an “early season drought.”
“They are calling it an early drought because it is affecting the spring crop; there’s been a lack of rainfall during winter and now into spring and this crop, although it’s smaller than a main harvest that comes in the end of the year, is critical for bridging the gap between the end of the last year’s main harvest and the beginning of the next.”
Helping the most vulnerable
He said the warning they have been receiving from colleagues, is that those who are more vulnerable will be most affected, that is; “young children, their mothers, mothers who are breast-feeding, the eldering and people who are already chronically ill.”
Cochrane underlined that 40% of the entire population is in need of food assistance. He also noted that this chronic situation will take, “a whole of society response” in order to mitigate the effects of this drought. For the Red Cross, the media spokesperson said, those most vulnerable are its main focus. “We focus on young children in particular because they just have so little capacity to withstand even minor additional shocks”. The Federation had already released funds that will go to helping around 22,000 people.
It’s predicted that the severe drought will last until the end of May. In February, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, issued an appeal for urgent food assistance.
The country is no stranger to food shortages. It suffered a severe famine in the mid-1990s that is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.