Rainfall gives respite to drought-hit North Korea

Rainfall gives respite to drought-hit North Korea
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL - Parched North Korea has seen significant rainfall over the past 12 days, state media reported, but not enough to end a severe drought described as the worst in 100 years.

Parts of North and South Hwanghae provinces, in the southwest of the country, received "much rain" from June 11 to 22, ranging from 72mm in Anak county to 95mm in Haeju city, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Monday.

"Though it rained in North and South Hwanghae provinces, drought will continue to linger in the country", Sim Myong Ok, deputy director of the North's Central Weather Forecast Station, was quoted as saying by KCNA.

"As the anticyclone over (the) northwest Pacific, which would affect the Eastern Asia, is not getting stronger enough due to El Nino, the rainy season is anticipated to set in late with comparatively little rainfall."

Earlier this month, KCNA said the North had been hit by the "worst drought in 100 years" that had caused "great damage".

KCNA added the country's main rice-growing areas - North Hwanghae, South Hwanghae, South Pyongan and South Hamgyong - had been badly hit.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said last week that early-harvest crops, mainly wheat and barley, had already been affected.

This will "lengthen and deepen the lean season months" from April to September when many North Koreans have to skip meals to cope with food shortages, WFP Asia Deputy Regional Director John Aylieff said in an email interview with AFP.

At present, WFP's operations in the North are only 55 percent funded and it is able to reach only half of the 1.8 million highly vulnerable and malnourished children and women which its programme targets, he said.

"In view of the dry spell and its implications, such funding shortfalls could not be occurring at a worse time", he added.

"It is critical that we have the resources at our disposal to fend off a rise in malnutrition and we need those resources (S$38 million) immediately, if we are to respond adequately."

North Korea has suffered regular chronic food shortages - hundreds of thousands are believed to have died during a famine in the mid-to-late 1990s - with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement.

International food aid, especially from South Korea and the United States, has been drastically cut amid tensions over the communist state's nuclear and missile programmes.

UN figures show up to 70 percent of the country remains food insecure and 28 percent of children under the age of five have suffered stunted growth due to malnutrition.

In April the United Nations launched an appeal for US$111 million for food aid to the country.

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