Monday, August 13, 2012

Vietnam donates rice to tackle hunger in flood-hit North Korea

Kate Hodal in the globaldevelopment blog in the Guardian (UK): Vietnam will donate 5,000 tonnes of rice to North Korea after recent flooding, which has left crops devastated, more than 160 people dead and 212,200 homeless, according to state media.

The donation may help assuage fears of a widespread famine like the one that killed an estimated 1 million in the 1990s. But UN officials warned on Thursday that the full crop damage and food scarcity facing North Korea won't be known until an assessment is completed next month.

More than 65,000 hectares of farmland have been washed away since floods began in late June, following a severe drought. Around 5,000 houses, 300 public buildings and 60 factories have been destroyed by the floods, renewing concerns about Pyongyang's capacity to feed its people and to carry out damage control. UN agencies said in June that two-thirds of the country's 24 million population were facing chronic food shortages.

North Korea is prone to flooding as much of its mountainous terrain has been deforested to grow crops on terraces. This creates landslides in heavy rains, says Leeds University Korea analyst Aidan Foster-Carter. "North Korea is incredibly vulnerable to natural disasters because of their natural environment and what they've done to it over the years," he says. "Before the country was divided in 1945, the south was the rice bowl … [Now] North Korea is about 1m tonnes short of food every year."...

Locator map showing Vietnam and North and South Korea, created by Betoseha, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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