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North Korea Could Face Food Shortage

Rice plants grow from the cracked and dry earth in Ryongchon-ri, North Korea, in the country's Hwangju County, June 22, 2012.

Rice plants grow from the cracked and dry earth in Ryongchon-ri, North Korea, in the country's Hwangju County, June 22, 2012.

North Korea could face more food shortages later this year if a drought continues. That is what the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said last week. A drought means a serious lack of rain, which makes it difficult to grow crops.

“The lack of water now could seriously affect the main crop season later this year," according to WFP’s communications officer Zoie Jones. She wrote to the VOA Korean Service in an email.

Her organization is concerned about children getting enough to eat. She added, "There will be a significant increase in malnutrition especially among children.”

The WFP warning came one day after the North Korean state media reported on the country’s drought conditions. The official Korean Central News Agency called it “The worst drought in 100 years… causing great damage to its [North Korea's] agricultural fields.”

A famine in the 1990s killed an estimated one million people in North Korea. In May, the U.N. reported the number of hungry people in North Korea has more than doubled in the last two decades. The number rose to 10.5 million in 2014, up from 4.8 million in 1990.

The WFP’s Ms. Jones said her agency is ready to give the North aid if the situation gets worse. She said the WFP is “closely monitoring” the situation and “is ready to assist,” if needed.

The U.N. food agency will continue the current humanitarian work in North Korea. The work was supposed to end in June. The agency needs $28 million to continue its work until the end of the year.

However, she said, “If the dry spell causes a spike in malnutrition then the funding situation will become even more critical."

Also last week, China said it would help its neighbor and ally. “China is willing to provide the aid that is needed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters.

The United States, however, said it has no plans to provide humanitarian aid to the North.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people,” said a State Department spokesman. “The United States has no plans to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea at this time, nor has North Korea requested U.S. assistance.”

I'm Anne Ball.

VOA’s Hyunjin Kim and Jee Abbey Lee reported this story. Anne Ball wrote it for Learning English with additional information from Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

drought n. a long period of time when there is very little or no rain

famine –n. a situation in which many people do not have enough food to eat

spike –n. a sudden, rapid increase in something

malnutrition –n. unhealthy condition from not getting enough to eat

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