The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies (IFRC) released 213,474 Swiss francs ($214,516) in emergency funding to aid North Koreans at risk from the current heatwave, the group said today in a press release.
Temperatures in the DPRK are averaging 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) and have the potential to threaten to country’s fragile agricultural sector.
“We cannot and must not let this situation become a full-blown food security crisis. We know that previous serious dry spells have disrupted the food supply to a point where it has caused serious health problems and malnutrition across the country,” IFC Programme Manager Joseph Muyambo said.
“It’s children aged under 5 who will suffer the most. High levels of malnutrition can cause impaired physical and cognitive growth, and this is completely unacceptable. The lives of elderly people and those already suffering from illnesses are also at risk during this heatwave.”
The IFRC official added that the heatwave is not yet classified as a drought, though noted that “crops were already withering in the fields.”
According to the press release, the aid organization has also deployed emergency response teams and 20 water pumps to irrigate the worst affected fields.
North Korea does not have sufficient coping mechanisms in place to manage extreme weather conditions and despite some improvements, its agricultural yields remain sensitive to droughts and floods.
Droughts and floods are also not uncommon in the DPRK, and last year’s low rainfall “caused a 7.2 percent drop in food production at a vital point of the harvest cycle,” the press release notes.
Despite the difficulties, North Korea also typically imports less food than is required, often leading to a shortfall in the overall availability of staple foods like rice.
Numerous NK Pro reports noted how cereal imports from neighboring China have trended downwards in recent years, though an increase in informal markets and off-books trade could also contribute to the decrease.
Even with the imports, relief shipments from Russia and Switzerland and the numerous NGO’s and UN aid agencies working in the DPRK, the country has yet been able to achieve food security for its population.
“Even before the current crisis, more than 10 million people – 40 percent of DPRK’s population – needed humanitarian assistance,” the IFRC press release said, before adding UN sanctions may have made it more difficult for aid agencies to operate in the DPRK.
Hoping to address this, the UN Security Council (UNSC) recently approved tweaks to the current sanctions regime which will streamline the process for aid agencies to apply for humanitarian exceptions.
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Featured Image: 5Q7A0163 by nknews_hq on 2016-10-04 08:37:47