North Korean children perform at a government-run orphanage in Pyongsong city, North Korea, in this file photo. Children are considered the most at risk from starvation following the worst drought since 2001, the U.N. says. (Photo by AFP)
North Korea faces severe food shortages as a result of the worst drought to hit the reclusive country since 2001, the United Nations food agency says. An acute lack of rainfall from April to June in key crop growing areas has severely damaged staples such as rice, maize, potatoes and soybean, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report. Most at risk of starvation are children and the elderly, the report says. Increased food imports or relief aid will be needed over the next three months to help make up the shortfall, the report added. The worst affected crop growing areas areas include South and North Pyongan, South and North Hwanghae and Nampo City, which normally account for about two-thirds of the overall main season cereal production, according to Vincent Martin, the FAO Representative in China and North Korea. "Immediate interventions are needed to support affected farmers and prevent undesirable coping strategies for the most vulnerable, such as reducing daily food intakes," said Martin. "It is critical now that farmers receive appropriate and timely agricultural assistance, including irrigation equipment and machinery." The report says it is also essential to immediately start rehabilitating and upgrading irrigation schemes to reduce water losses and increase water availability.
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