WFP rushes food aid to flood victims in DPR of Korea

WFP rushes food aid to flood victims in DPR of Korea

The United Nations World Food Programme today said it was rushing emergency rations to tens of thousands of flood victims in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), following freak rains in the southeast of the country that caused large-scale damage to crops, homes and infrastructure.

The UN agency dispatched 1,850 tonnes of wheat to the epicentre of the floods in Kangwon province, enough to feed some 145,000 of the worst affected until the end of November, when locally grown rice and vegetables become available. These beneficiaries, whose homes and gardens were inundated when close to 400 millimetres of rain fell in a 12-hour period, are to receive a daily ration of 320 grammes.

"The rains that hit the east coast on 9 to 10 October were the worst experienced in the area in living memory," said Rick Corsino, WFP Country Director for the DPRK. "Our first assessment, on the day following the rains, showed thousands of hectares of rice paddy lying under one metre or more of water in some places."

WFP was also working with the DPRK Government's Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee to identify suitable projects for food-for-work assistance. Food-for-work projects, implemented mostly in food-deficit areas like Kangwon, are short-term operations typically aimed at boosting - or minimizing - threats to agricultural production and include the rebuilding of sea-dykes and river embankments, the deepening of streams and reforestation.

The Kangwon flooding, caused in part by a tidal surge that prevented run-off water draining into the sea, resulted in the loss of an estimated 50,000 tonnes of paddy. Even when confined to a relatively small area, such losses can aggravate the already precarious food security environment of the DPRK, where just 20 per cent of the land is arable.

"The storm struck at a particularly bad time as much of the rice had recently been cut and was lying in the paddy fields to dry and eventually be carried off for threshing", said Corsino.

Since 1995, floods, droughts and tropical storms have exacerbated the already pressing agricultural, industrial and infrastructural problems afflicting the DPRK, contributing to chronic food shortages, widespread hunger and malnutrition.