The Sonchongang River outside Hamhung in full flood, 15 July 2011 (Copyright: WFP)
Dramatic flooding following heavy rains is adding a new challenge for the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, many of whom are already going hungry as food supplies run thinner and thinner. Children in particular remain highly vulnerable to malnutrition.
A recent World Food Programme (WFP) monitoring mission to Wonsan and Hamhung, east of the capital Pyongyang, witnessed widespread flooding and damage to farmland. Rivers have broken their banks and in many cases are reported to have forced people from their homes.
The flooding has only deepened concerns for the overall food supply situation in the country.
“The rivers are swollen, brown in colour and gushing down,” said WFP DPRK Country Director Claudia von Roehl. “We have seen large fields completely swamped, with people wading around in the water trying to salvage whatever they can – normally potatoes.”
Given the scale of the flooding, it is likely any foodstuff rescued from the fields will be useful only for animal feed.
DPR Korea is highly vulnerable to floods – last year Sinuiju province suffered particularly badly – and also poorly equipped to mitigate damage and deal with the aftermath of inundations. This year’s floods come at a particularly bad time – in the middle of a nationwide campaign to ensure the best possible rice and maize harvest later in the year. Although it is too early to know the true impact of the floods on food production, in some areas it will clearly be significant.
WFP’s current operation in DRPK aims to provide vital food supplies to 3.5 million of the most vulnerable children, their mothers and the elderly, and requires about US$18 million per month in funding to ensure proper coverage.