Villagers still struggle with food and shelter after floods

Publié: 5 novembre 2011 14:59 CET

By Francis Markus in Soksa Ri, South Hwanghae

As you approach the village of Soksa Ri from the road, it looks like any other settlement of neat cottages, resting on a gentle slope, amid the freshly harvested rice fields.

It’s only when you get closer that you see the ruins of villagers’ homes and the buildings with large chunks of the roof torn off them by July’s floods, which inflicted widespread devastation on tiny community of 65 households - and large areas of the DPRK’s most important agricultural land.

“The rain was so heavy, I couldn’t open my eyes and my house started to collapse, room by room, first the living room, then the rest,” says Gi Yong Sun, 48. She and her family just managed to get out in time.

Right now, she and her husband and their two children are living in a hastily-built temporary house.

The ruins of her family’s and neighbours’ homes blight the once neat landscape of the community.

But as we talk to her, we find out that there are even more pressing problems than shelter.

“We have so little food that it is hard to survive,” she says as she chops a radish to add to the small ration of maize which the family have for lunch.

People in this village and other communities in South Hwanghae Province, are surviving on only about 200 grammes of grain from the government distribution system at the moment, as against the normal ration of about 600-800 grammes.

They have just harvested the rice crop. But local people say that up to 80 per cent of the harvest was ruined by the floods, which brought a whole year’s worth of rainfall down on the villages in the space of a few hours.

“After that grain runs out early in the New Year, we don’t know what we’re going to survive on for the next few months,” the village leader, Pak Su Tong, tells us.

The Red Cross is to provide a limited amount of food relief to some 6,000 families worst-affected by the floods. But there are are not sufficient resources to help them over a period of at least several months of severe food insecurity.

My colleagues laugh at me when I focus a lot of my attention on the small piglet, which Ms. Gi has penned up close by her house. It seems to me to be key to the family’s food supply.

“In a few months’ time, when it’s grown big, I will sell it in order to buy more food for us.”

But I’m concerned that if the family themselves have so little to eat, how can the pig grow big enough to be worth much?

Getting back to Ms. Gi’s feeling, though, she says that apart from food, “I’m depressed about having lost our home.” Pointing at the temporary structure they’re living in, she says: ” This is not our home. We’re really worried about spending the cold winter in here.”

Ms. Gi and her family, even though their situation is difficult, are still more fortunate than some other families in one respect:

They and their fellow-villagers here are among the more than 400 most vulnerable households to whom the DPRK Red Cross Society, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, is to provide construction materials to build new homes that will be able to resist repeated flooding.

“This way, we will be able to help these people to escape from a vicious cycle of vulnerability next time serious flooding occurs – but we need more support, in order to be able to cover the 1,000 families which is the very minimum which we targeted in our emergency appeal,”says Igor Dmitruk, IFRC Head of Delegation in Pyongyang.