Sat, Aug 04, 2012 - Page 1 News List

UN says N Korea needs post-flood food aid urgently

AP, SEOUL

Houses in floodwater in Anju, North Korea, are seen in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 30.

Photo: EPA

North Korea needs immediate food assistance after heavy rains killed scores of people and submerged vast swaths of farmland, an UN office said on Thursday.

That assessment was released by the UN resident coordinator’s office in Pyongyang following visits to flood-stricken areas in North Korea earlier this week. Floods caused by two storm systems last month killed at least 119 people and left tens of thousands homeless, according to North Korean state media.

The flooding, which occurred on the heels of a severe drought, renewed concerns about North Korea’s ability to feed its people. In June, the UN said two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people are coping with chronic food shortages.

Thursday’s UN report said torrential rains caused severe damage to homes, public buildings, infrastructure and farms, affecting maize, soybean and rice fields. The worst-hit areas are Anju and Songchon County in South Phyongan Province, as well as Chonnae County in Kangwon Province, where residents are in dire need of emergency food aid, it said.

About 36,000 families in Anju do not have access to clean water; wells are contaminated due to overflow of pit latrines and open drainage, raising the risk of a diarrhea outbreak, the report said. A city official said earlier this week that it was the worst disaster in Anju’s history.

North Korean officials are asking for food, fuel, medicine, water and purification supplies, while farmers are requesting seeds and fertilizer for the next season, the UN said.

Aid groups have rushed to donate emergency supplies, such as British-based charity ShelterBox, which dispatched 270 tents to North Korea, said Howard Chang, spokesman for Rotary International who provides funding to ShelterBox.

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