North Korea faces worst drought in 100 years

North Korea hit by what it describes as worst drought this century, raising fears of worsening chronic food shortages

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

North Korea has said it has been hit by "the worst drought in a century," state news agency KCNA announced on Wednesday, and the drought was causing "great harm to the agricultural sector."

The latest official statement raises the fear of food shortages in the country where malnutrition is already a big problem, especially among children.

North Korea has relied on international food aid since a famine hit the country almost 15 years ago, but this aid has slowed down because aid agencies accuse North Korea of restraining humanitarian workers and monitoring food distribution. Annual spending by UN agencies in North Korea has fallen from $300 million to less than $50 million in the last ten years.

During the famine in the 1990s hundreds of thousands of people died, but experts believe this time the drought's effects will not be as devastating as the country has undertaken reforms in its agricultural policies.

The KCNA news agency has said that a lack of rain has damaged the rice crop and farmland is drying up, especially in two regions of the country. Without sufficient water, growing rice is impossible, as the crop has to be partly submerged. The agency also described the crippling levels of food shortages that are already occurring.

To cope with the drought North Korea has launched a campaign to urge people to help farmers and use diesel-powered water pumps and longer pipes to draw water into fields.

"Farm managers reported receiving training in dry rice planting techniques and other measures that they were trying to conserve water," said Linda Lewis of the American Friends Service Committee, a group that runs farm projects in the North.

The country received its lowest levels of rainfall in 30 years in 2014 and the United Nations pledged a $111 million fund for humanitarian assistance. A lack of rain is also causing chronic power shortages as the country relies heavily on hydroelectric power.

Neighbouring South Korea has also been negatively affected by lower rainfall, which is half the annual average, its national weather agency has said.

TRTWorld and agencies