North Korea famine not imminent but flood impact not yet clear: U.N.
By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING (Reuters) - Impoverished North Korea is a long way from famine levels that killed hundreds of thousands in the 1990s but it won't be until late next month that a full assessment of food levels after recent floods is possible, a U.N. official said on Thursday.
North Korea's state media says the death toll from flooding between late June and the end of July has reached at least 169, with some 400 people missing and 212,200 homeless.
The floods have washed away 65,280 hectares of farmland, with more than 1,400 educational, healthcare and factory buildings also collapsed or damaged, North Korea says.
"Fortunately we are really quite far away from the situation in the mid-1990s," said Claudia von Roehl, the U.N. World Food Programme's (WFP) representative in North Korea.
"But we should always be aware there is a very chronic and severe problem in the nutrition of the population and in particular the very monotonous diet which basically is composed of maize and rice, carbohydrates, and lacking very significantly in proteins and fats," she told reporters in Beijing.
North Korea suffered famine in the 1990s that killed an estimated million people and has continued to endure chronic food shortages, which many experts say reflect systemic failings in the reclusive country's heavily centralized economic system, which has sapped farmers' productivity.
Since then, North Korea's agricultural sector has become increasingly vulnerable to floods and drought as a result of widespread deforestation.
Von Roehl said the United Nations will conduct a full-scale food assessment for the malnourished North next month. Continued...