North Korea says it is suffering its worst drought in a century

Source:Reuters Published: 2015-6-17 23:23:01

North Korea has been hit by what it describes as its worst drought in a century, which could worsen chronic food shortages in a country where the United Nations says almost a third of children under 5 are stunted because of poor nutrition.

The country suffered a devastating famine in the 1990s and has relied on international food aid, but support has fallen sharply in recent years because of its curbs on humanitarian workers and reluctance to allow monitoring of food distribution.

The North's KCNA news agency said late on Tuesday that paddies around the country, including the main rice farming regions of Hwanghae and Phyongan provinces, were drying up for lack of rain. Rice must be partly submerged in order to grow.

"The worst drought in 100 years continues in the DPRK, causing great damage to its agricultural field," KCNA said, using the short form of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

South Korea's unification ministry, which handles ties with the North, did not have a comment on Wednesday about the report.

North Korea's farm production periodically suffers from droughts and floods in the summer, although the state has learned to mitigate damage by updating farming methods and switching to crops other than rice in recent years.

North Korea has mounted a campaign encouraging the public to help out on farms, and is using mobile water pumps that run on diesel 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 prospects of North Korea's food production for this year are distinctly gloomy, given a prolonged drought and lack of fertiliser, the South's unification ministry said.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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