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 five are stunted because of poor nutrition.
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. “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.
The U.N. resident coordinator for North Korea, Ghulam Isaczai, warned in a Reuters interview last month of a looming crisis due to last year’s drought, caused by the lowest rainfall in 30 years.
Thomas Lehman, Denmark’s ambassador to both North and South Korea, told Reuters that on a visit to the North late last month he could “clearly see” attempts to deal with the drought in its fields.
The government has mounted a campaign encouraging the public to help out on farms, and is using mobile water pumps run on diesel and longer pipes to draw water into fields. North Korea relies heavily on hydroelectric power and suffers from chronic electricity shortages, which can be exacerbated by periods of no rain.