DPRK - Red Cross appeals for support as storms and flooding leave thousands homeless

Published: 22 August 2011 14:20 CET

By Patrick Fuller

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal for 3.5 million Swiss francs (3.1 million Euros) to provide urgently needed supplies of food and non-food relief, shelter materials, clean water and health care to 30,000 people who have been badly affected by a series of storms and floods that have swept across southern and south western areas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Between late June and early August the erratic weather conditions have wreaked havoc across the country. Over 9,500 houses have been damaged or destroyed, rendering more than 25,000 people homeless. The situation worsened when Typhoon Muifa cut a swathe of destruction when it made landfall in DPRK in August.

Recent field assessments carried out by the DPRK Red Cross Society and the IFRC found that in some areas of the worst-affected South Hwanghae Province, about 50 per cent of homes had been destroyed and 90 per cent suffered some kind of damage. Dilapidated buildings made of mud and poor quality cement simply collapsed under the weight of too much rain and hard winds.

“The floods and storms have left an already vulnerable population in a critical condition”, explains Igor Dmitryuk, IFRC head of delegation in Pyongyang. “The affected areas represent the bread basket of DPRK. With their homes and livelihoods destroyed people have been left with nothing to fall back on”.

With the rainy season continuing at full strength, many people are living under plastic sheeting or in the remnants of their dwellings, many of which are at risk of imminent collapse. At the same time, polluted wells, boreholes, and submerged pump stations continue to raise serious health concerns.

“If no rapid action is taken, many people may have to spend the winter under plastic sheeting. With temperatures often as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius, we have to move fast to help them reconstruct their homes before the temperatures drop”, says Dmitryuk.

The multiple floods have severely damaged buildings, infrastructure and crops throughout the DPRK, with south Hwanghae, north Hwanghae, south Hamgyong, and Kangwon provinces the worst-hit. Due to chronic food shortages and lack of resources, the needs in food supplies and shelter materials in the affected areas has exceeded the capacity of the usual response by the DPRK government in disaster situations.

As an immediate response, the DPRK Red Cross distributed relief items to more than 29,000 people who lost their homes and belongings. A further 24,000 people in Chongdan, Yonan and Pongchon counties in south Hwanghae province will receive food and household items to meet their immediate needs.

The crop damage suffered in recent weeks due to the flooding of arable land and loss of available food stocks at household level is expected to threaten the already fragile food security situation in the affected counties. According to the last FAO/WFP/UNICEF Rapid Food Security Assessment from March 2011, the DPRK is facing over one million tons of cereal deficit which represents a quarter of its annual requirements.

In the same counties, 4000 of the most vulnerable people will benefit from distributions of good quality construction materials and technical support to help in the reconstruction of flood-resistant houses.

To ensure the newly constructed houses are built back better, the DPRK Red Cross will be working closely together with the DPRK state academy of science, which has been successfully implementing flood-resistant houses in accordance with the DPRK building codes. The idea is to apply the DPRK state academy of science’s flood-proof design for houses and to use engineers from the academy to train 120 trainers, who will then train the community people in basic construction practices.

As well as providing food and other relief supplies, the DPRK Red Cross will also focus on working to prevent the outbreak of disease by providing emergency health care and water and sanitation services.

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