Via Reuters: INTERVIEW: UN warns of coming hunger in North Korea. Excerpt:
A drought in North Korea could lead to huge food shortages this year, the top U.N. official in the country told Reuters in an interview.
Rainfall in 2014, the lowest in records going back 30 years, was 40-60 percent below 2013 levels, and reservoirs are very low, said Ghulam Isaczai, the U.N. resident coordinator.
"We're extremely concerned with the impact of drought which will affect the crop this year severely. And we might be faced with another major incident of food availability or even hunger," said Isaczai. "It is going to create a huge deficit between the needs and what is available."
If El Nino weather conditions bring more drought this year, the situation in 2016 could be even worse, he warned.
"This is currently the rice-planting season. Normally they submerge the land almost a week or two in advance. But this year, I've seen it myself - they're doing it in the dry, actually planting rice. So what we're hearing right now is that they're switching to maize and corn because that requires less water."
Some farmers, already struggling with a shortage of fuel and equipment, have resorted to using buckets to water seedlings, he said. The effect of North Korea's lack of agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation systems was visible on the border, where "dry and harsh" North Korean land met green fields in China.
A famine in the 1990s killed as many as 1 million North Koreans but recently many international donors have been reluctant to help because of Pyongyang's restrictions on humanitarian workers and international concerns over its nuclear ambitions.
"Let's not make aid political," Isaczai said.