North Korea’s worst drought in decades is being driven by the lowest rainfall in a century, according to the country’s official state newspaper.
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper—the official publication of Kim Jong Un’s ruling party—blamed the ongoing drought on lower than expected levels of precipitation. The newspaper said North Korea received just 56.3 millimeters (2.21 inches) of rain or snow from January to May 15, the lowest amount since 1917. The article noted that water was running out in the country’s lakes and reservoirs, and explained the lack of rainfall “is causing a significant effect on the cultivation of wheat, barley, corn, potatoes and beans,” according to Al Jazeera.
Yonhap reported that South Korean authorities are preparing to send food to North Korea if the situation deteriorates. Any food aid may give a shot in the arm to stalled negotiations between the North, South and U.S. on the denuclearization of the peninsula and the lifting of sanctions, the agency noted.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme (WFP) said more than 10 million North Koreans—representing some 40 percent of the national population—were already facing severe food shortages. Such an extensive drought will likely exacerbate such food pressures, leaving many at risk of starvation. The report said that North Koreans have been surviving on just 300g (10.5 oz) of food each day so far this year. During a visit to South Korea earlier this week, WFP Executive Director David Beasely told reporters the body has “very serious concerns” about the situation in North Korea.
Last week, Mohamed Babiker, the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ North Korea office, said the organization was “particularly concerned about the impact that this early drought will have on children and adults who are already struggling to survive. Even before this drought, one in five children under 5 years old was stunted because of poor nutrition. We are concerned that these children will not be able to cope with further stress on their bodies.”
Thus far, there is no suggestion the drought could spark a famine as severe as the one that is believed to have killed millions of North Koreans in the 1990s.