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's worst human rights abuses
North Korea's worst human rights abuses
A UN report said that policies leading to mass starvation in North Korea amounted to crimes against humanity. Deaths peaked during the 1990s North Korean famine.
Defence minister Hyon Yong Chol is believed to be the latest official executed after falling foul of Kim Jong-un. As well as gruesome public executions, thousands of people have been killed in state 'purges' and for alleged anti-state crimes
Torture is prevalent in prison camps, as well as in police and security service custody.
4/11 Freedom of religion
American missionary Kenneth Bae was one of the many people detained after trying to practice their religion. The DPRK Constitution claims to protect freedom of religion but not if it as alleged of being used a a pretext for 'drawing in foreign forces or for harming the state and social order'. Christianity is frequently considered a political crime
5/11 Freedom of expression
All media is tightly-state controlled and expressing facts of opinions critical of the government or Juche ideology can lead to arrest and imprisonment. As well as being under extensive surveillance, people are encouraged to 'inform' on friends and neighbours
6/11 Freedom of thought
A UN report found that the 'DPRK operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machine which takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to the Supreme Leader, effectively to the exclusion of any independent thought from the official ideology and state propaganda'
7/11 Forced labour
Prisoners are subjected to forced labour in camps, including children as young as five. Some workers are also reportedly being sent abroad to fund the government's projects
8/11 Sexual discrimination
Although women are permitted to serve in the military, their role is restrained by the Juche ideology and the UN reports that 'discrimination against women remains pervasive in all aspects of society'
9/11 Freedom of movement
Freedom of movement is severely restricted within North Korea and very few citizens are allowed to leave the country. Immigrants found in China can be forcible repatriated and punished on their return. The right for foreigners to enter is also severely restricted.
10/11 Prison camps
Many of the worst abuses reported take place at prison camps, some specifically for political crimes. The camps officially do not exist but have been photographed using satellite. Inmates are 'forcibly disappeared' and usually imprisoned until death
11/11 Reproductive rights
Forced abortions have been reported for imprisoned women, often after being raped by guards. Mothers and babies frequently die in childbirth because of a lack of adequate care, often delivering babies unaided at home.
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."Reuse content