Vatican News
Image of drought affected land Image of drought affected land 

North Korea suffers major drought

North Korea says it’s suffering its worst drought in nearly 40 years. The country is also experiencing severe food shortages. The official Korean Central News Agency said an average of 54.4 millimeters of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year.

By Lydia O’Kane

The alarm being raised over this drought comes after U.N. 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, 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.”

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 per cent of the entire population are 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”.

Cochrane said that the Federation had already released funds that will go to helping around 22 thousand people.

Longer term projects

He also added, that they are looking at longer term projects, such as, the deployment of water pumps, “so that people can irrigate their crops in the absence of rain, but we’re also looking to pilot a project around household greenhouse gardens, so that families … can have access to green vegetables all year round.”

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.

Listen to the interview
16 May 2019, 12:55