In this photo taken on July 24, 2018, a student shields her face from the sun as she walks past a fence while the city skyline of Pyongyang is seen in the background. (ED JONES / AFP)
GENEVA - A heat wave in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has led to rice, maize and other crops withering in the fields, "with potentially catastrophic effects", the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Friday.
The world's largest disaster relief network warned of a risk of a "full-blown food security crisis" in the country hit by international sanctions. The population is already stressed and vulnerable with malnutrition among children that could worsen, it said.
There had been no rainfall since early July as temperatures soared to an average 39 Celsius across the country, and the next rain was expected in mid-August, it said.
There had been no rainfall since early July as temperatures soared to an average 39 Celsius across the country, and the next rain was expected in mid-August
The population of 25 million is already stressed and vulnerable with malnutrition among children that could worsen, it said in a statement issued in Geneva.
"This is not yet classified as a drought, but rice, maize and other crops are already withering in the fields, with potentially catastrophic effects for the people of DPRK," said Joseph Muyamboit, its program manager in Pyongyang.
"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," he said.
The Federation was helping the national Red Cross to support 13,700 of the most vulnerable people at risk. It had deployed emergency response teams and 20 water pumps to irrigate fields in the hardest-hit areas, it said.
David Beasley, the head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), visited the DPRK in May to look into boosting food distributions to hungry women and children, in the latest sign of an opening.
About 70 percent of people in the DPRK are "food insecure", meaning they struggle to avoid hunger, and one in four children under five is stunted from chronic malnutrition, the WFP said at the time. A 2015 drought worsened the situation, it said.
The suffered famine in the mid-1990s that killed up to three million people.