North Korea’s state news agency is reporting that recent flooding in the country has resulted in 169 deaths and a further 400 people unaccounted for.
Heavy rains and flooding during late June and July left 212,000 homeless and devastated croplands in the north of the country. These floods followed a period of extreme drought in the month of May, which sparked speculation regarding food shortages and resultant starvation among the North Korean populace.
Here’s what a few international news sources are saying about the current situation in NKorea…
More than 8,600 houses were destroyed and another 43,770 swamped, along with some 1,400 schools, factories and healthcare facilities, according to the state news agency.
The flooding occurred after a severe drought and renewed concerns about North Korea’s ability to feed its people. In June, the UN said two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people were facing chronic food shortages.
Wells had been contaminated by overflowing latrines, creating a high risk of a diarrhoea outbreak, while floods had damaged water sources and pumping stations. Citing government figures, the UN mission said about 50,000 families would need purification tablets or other help to secure clean water.
The United Nations World Food Program has already visited the most affected areas and is making an initial shipment of food aid.
Immediate risks include waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea (which can result in death by dehydration, especially in children) as well as skin and respiratory infections.
The crisis is being attributed to several factors:
- The northern region of NKorea is mountainous and lacks arable land.
- Large scale deforestation in the country in order to create farmland has resulted in poor flood protection.
- Agricultural techniques are described as “outdated” and lacking fertilizer.
- Food is often diverted to the military.
Of course in a country as secretive and isolated as North Korea it is difficult to know what is really happening on the ground. A few UN visitors, official NKorean news agency statements and leaks from inside the country hardly constitute a comprehensive, reliable collection of sources.
China, North Korea’s main political ally and chief benefactor, has been the impoverished country’s principal source of aid for food and other resources like oil.