WFP has announced that deliveries of emergency food assistance for victims of devastating floods in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will begin immediately.
The DPRK Government has agreed to WFP emergency food distributions over a three month period to 215,000 people affected by the flooding in 37 counties across six provinces of the country.
“Emergency rations are ready and we will begin truck deliveries to flood-affected areas and communities as soon as possible,” said Jean-Pierre DeMargerie, WFP’s Country Director for the DPRK.
“We will work in cooperation with the government in providing food assistance to communities where people have lost their homes and have seen their fields and this year’s harvest devastated by these floods,” he said.
A total of 5,700 tons of WFP food stocks are presently available in country for immediate distribution as emergency rations for flood-affected areas.
Additional food will have to be brought into DPRK, with an estimated 9,675 tons of cereals, pulses, oil and sugar needed for the initial three month emergency assistance plan now agreed.
Dead or missing
The DPRK government said hundreds of people were dead or missing following the floods, and that more than 300,000 persons had been made homeless.
Severe damage to farmland and to crops and widespread damage to infrastructure, including roads, bridges and rail networks, was also reported.
WFP rapid assessment teams have completed visits to 11 counties in two provinces, identifying immediate emergency food needs and confirming the extent of infrastructure and farmland damage.
Further assessments this week will cover additional flood-affected areas.
According to published reports from the state-run media, maize and rice crop losses could be as high as 11 percent from the floods.
This would result in a significant reduction to this year’s expected harvest, and increasing the risk of a larger than anticipated food gap.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that DPRK faces a one-million-ton cereal food deficit for this crop year (November 2006-October 2007).
“The flooding in the DPRK is serious. WFP has worked out satisfactory arrangements with the Government so that we can provide emergency food aid to hundreds of thousands of people who need our help,” said Tony Banbury, WFP’s Regional Director for Asia.
“WFP assistance will help them recover from this disaster and get on with their lives, just as WFP aid is helping people suffering from floods in South Asia, and from last week’s earthquake in Peru,” he said.
The DPRK Government has indicated its acceptance of WFP’s conditions allowing for ongoing assessments and visits by WFP staff of food distributions at the district and community level in the flood-affected areas.
An existing WFP operation in the DPRK provides nutritional food assistance to 1.9 million especially vulnerable North Koreans across 50 counties, including many of the flood-affected counties.
This programme distributes vitamin- and mineral-enriched foods processed at local factories to young children and pregnant and nursing women and provides cereal rations to underemployed workers through food-for-community-development projects aimed at rehabilitating agricultural and other community infrastructure.
The programme has been critically underfunded since it started in June 2006, and WFP has only been able to feed 700,000 beneficiaries to date.
With food stocks now being drawn on for the emergency flood relief operation, more donor resources will be needed to ensure the continuation of the broader children’s and women’s nutritional assistance program.
The emergency flood response alone will cost US$5-6 million according to preliminary estimates.
“We hope the international community will respond to this serious crisis and support the emergency food needs of North Korean civilians suffering from these floods – but we also call upon donors not to neglect the needs of many others, North Korean women and children, who also require our help,” said Banbury.