06 March 2019, Seoul (AFP)
North Korea recorded its worst harvest for more than a decade last year, the United Nations said Wednesday, as natural disasters combined with its lack of arable land and inefficient agriculture to hit production.
The isolated North, which is under several sets of sanctions over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes, has long struggled to feed itself and suffers chronic food shortages.
But last year’s harvest was just 4.95 million tonnes, the United Nations said in its Needs and Priorities assessment for 2019, down by 500,000 tonnes.
It was “the lowest production in more than a decade”, the UN’s Resident Coordinator in the North Tapan Mishra said in a statement.”This has resulted in a significant food gap.”
As a result 10.9 million people in the North needed humanitarian assistance — 600,000 more than last year — with a potential for increased malnutrition and illness.It is equivalent to 43 percent of the population.
But while the number of people needing help rose, the UN has had to cut its target for people to help — from 6.0 million to 3.8 million — as it seeks to prioritise those most in need.
Funding has fallen far short of what the UN says it needs.Only 24 percent of last year’s appeal was met, with Mishra describing it as “one of the lowest funded humanitarian plans in the world”.
Several agencies had been forced to scale back their programmes and some faced closing projects, he said, appealing to donors to “not let political considerations get in the way of addressing humanitarian need”.
“The human cost of our inability to respond is unmeasurable,” he said, adding that sanctions had created unintended delays and challenges to humanitarian programmes, even though they are exempt under UN Security Council resolutions.