10,000 Expected to Starve in NK Drought
2012 Brings Hwanghae’s Worst Drought in 60 Years
Field Report: 10,000 Expected to Starve
Information coming in from LFNKR’s grass-roots network in North Korea indicates that the drought and starvation are seriously affecting South Hwanghae Province. The drought advancing on the granaries of North Korea is wreaking havoc on the harvest, and threatening widespread starvation.
Buds Failing to Sprout as Abnormally Dry Weather Continues
This year from April to mid-June, precipitation fell below 10 millimeters. There is no sign of rain, and even now abnormal weather continues.
There has been no rain in Pyongyang, Nampo, most of Hwanghaenam-do, and Pyeongannam-do, as well as the plains region of Hwanghaepukto, and the dry conditions are expected to continue. In April, wheat should begin growing, but the buds that sprouted back then have all withered. The May potato buds sprouted but were too feeble to develop. Corn shoots should have already appeared, but they never germinated. The soil is completely dry.
The damage caused by withering crops is affecting entire regions. The prospects for this year’s harvest are nearly hopeless. In the Hwanghae region, last year’s flood damage decreased agricultural output by half. On top of that, this year has brought what is being called the worst drought in 60 years.
The Hwanghae region is the rice bowl of North Korea. It is important in providing rice for the military and the capital Pyongyang, but the regional government fears that they will not be able to carry out that function after two consecutive years of natural disasters. The effects of last year’s flood and this year’s drought will impact all areas of North Korea. There is grave concern that an unprecedented food shortage is likely.
An Image of Countless Elderly and Young Victims in Rural Areas
Currently, it is the lean period of spring when crops are in transition. Even in normal years, this is the time when there is too little food. The situation is especially severe in rural areas, where the starvation is reportedly worst. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to starvation.
The regional government has issued no official statistics on deaths. According to a Ministry of Agriculture official, however, who was sent to assess the situation, a low estimate would be twelve to thirteen thousand people starved between February and May, just in the Hwanghae region alone. Observers expect to see the number of victims continue rising indefinitely.
The Ministry of Agriculture and other government officials are issuing strong warnings, but they appear helpless to change anything. Every year, food is normally a million tons short, but making matters worse, the United States this year cancelled 240 thousand tons of food aid because of North Korea’s missile firing.
International Aid Requests, and 20 Tons of Aid from LFNKR
In order to address the problem, the government has ordered emergency rations. Full details are not available, however. In May, although the Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong-nam visited Indonesia, Kampuchea, Laos and other countries to request food aid, results are still in question.
According to a North Korean trade representative in China, North Koreans who work in China at jointly managed factories and Pyongyang Restaurants (a North Korean government-owned restaurant chain) must contribute 1,500 yuan per person ($267, which can buy 300 kg of high grade rice).
Regardless, these efforts by the North Korean government are unlikely to overcome the drought crisis, and this poses a serious threat to the weak, elderly, sick, and young.
From a humanitarian standpoint, LFNKR is planning to distribute enough food for 200 people (20 tons) within one year, with all food going directly to nursery schools and kindergartens. We ask for your prayers, support and donations in this effort.