Red Cross food distributions help flood affected families in DPRK through hard times

Publié: 15 décembre 2011 15:20 CET

By Kim Gwang ll and Kamal Niraula in Pyongyang

With moist eyes, 74 year-old Sin Yong Hui, smiles in appreciation at the bag of maize that she receives from the Red Cross Society of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea distribution team. The team is carrying out a food distribution at Dok Dal Ri in Chongdan county, South Hwanghae province; one of the communities targeted by the organization in its ongoing flood relief operations. In the surrounding area, already-harvested paddy fields seem desolate. The meager crop was severely damaged after being struck by a typhoon and flooding in July and August. Now, with the arrival of the first snow, people in the area are busy preparing for what they expect to be a severe winter.

Mrs Sin currently shares her small but warm house with her son, his wife and their two children who joined her after their own house was washed away by the floods. She is proud of her few assets, particularly her black-and-white television set powered by a hand-cranked spinning wheel fitted with a small dynamo.

She has lived in the village for over 30 years. Despite being bent with age, she is still able to maintain a kitchen garden in front of her house. From this small garden she earns additional income to bridge the gap when serious food shortages occur.

Mrs Sin serves up a simple meal of boiled sweet potato and winter Kimchi (pickled cabbage). She explains how the weather this year has been strange and unpredictable; this year’s floods have been the worst in living memory. It has even been difficult to maintain her small kitchen garden. This year she was only able to harvest one-and-a-half bags of sweet potato (approx. 22 kg), in comparison with the six bags the garden produced last year.

She and her two grand children are reliant upon the food ration provided by her son and his wife, both farm laborers. They received 15 days’ ration (600 grams per person per day) in November from the co-operative farm instead of the usual annual distribution which didn’t happen this year as the main harvest was not yet ready for distribution. This has meant that the five family members currently live on a food ration which only allows them one or two meals a day.

For Mrs Sin, the food distributed by the organization is an “important and unforgettable event”. She hopes the food will cover the lean period before the annual distribution from the co-operative farm begins.

The Red Cross Society of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has so far distributed 288 metric tons of yellow maize to 6,051 of the most vulnerable families (24,827 people) who were severely affected by floods and subsequent food shortages in three target counties in South Hwanghae province.

In parallel with this, construction of new houses for 600 families and rebuilding of water and sanitation systems is under way in ten communities. Health and hygiene promotion is an integral part of the operation. During the floods these same communities also received emergency relief support which included materials to make temporary shelters, blankets, cooking sets, hygiene items and water purification tablets.