DPR Korea: Malnutrition and disease on the rise as drought ruins early harvest

Beijing/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 18 July 2019 –-An early season drought in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has cut by half the expected production of a critical harvest, increasing pressure on highly vulnerable groups across the country.

The drought, which started early this spring after months of unusually erratic weather, has destroyed crops that would have been harvested between June and September. The drought follows a lean 2018 where food production was 12 per cent below the previous year and the lowest in a decade.

Mohamed Babiker, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) country office in DPRK, said:

“We are already seeing the impacts of this drought on vulnerable people. Rates of malnutrition and water borne diseases like diarrhoea and colitis are on the rise.”

In May, an assessment in drought-stricken areas by the DPRK Red Cross and IFRC found that this year’s harvest will be less than half of what would be possible with adequate rain, normal temperatures, the right irrigation and other inputs such as fertilizers.

Following this assessment, IFRC released nearly 250,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Emergency Relief Fund to support the deployment and operation of mobile water pumps in an effort to mitigate the effects of the drought. This intervention saw crop yields double in targeted areas.

Given the continued severity of the situation, the IFRC is now calling for an additional 472,000 Swiss francs to provide fertilizers, herbicides, irrigation and water and sanitation supplies to improve crop yields and stem the spread of water borne diseases in the most affected communities in North Phyongan province.

Mohamed Babiker said: “We need to act quickly to ensure that what can be saved from this harvest is saved, and to safeguard the food security of people who don’t have the resources to cope with even a small food shortfall.

“Water pumps and irrigation supplies can make a significant difference. They can be life saving for a population that is chronically undernourished and at risk of disease.”

The DPRK Red Cross Society is the leading humanitarian organization in the country and one of the only organisations with access to communities across the whole country. Through the Red Cross’ network of 110,000 volunteers, including 60 national and 150 provincial disaster response team members, it responds to life-saving humanitarian needs in terms of food security, nutrition, health, and water and sanitation.

The IFRC has had a permanent presence in DPRK since 1995 and is supporting the humanitarian and development programmes of the DPRK Red Cross Society.

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