A United Nations official overseeing international aid assistance in North Korea says current massive floods have caused shortages of food and clean water.
Jerome Sauvage, the U.N.’s resident coordinator in North Korea, said the flood-stricken areas also need support for their health system. But he said the floods may not have a long-term effect on food supply in the country.
“We have to be careful, [but] we have not seen such widespread disaster in terms of sitting-water permanently over fields destroying crops. And therefore we’re not able to say that long-term food supply will have been affected. It will be the U.N. Crop and food assessment of September-October that will help us determine any impact on the food situation. And to that, we’ll add the recent dry spell that took place in the months of May and June,” Sauvage said.
Heavy rains have triggered deadly floods across much of North Korea since July 25. The state media say about 170 people have died in the floods and 400 more are missing. More than 200,000 are reported homeless, while 60,000 hectares of farmland have been washed away.
U.N. World Food Program is sending emergency food aid into the chronically impoverished country.
Sauvage said that this week the U.N. is sending teams to assess the health situation and sanitation in the affected areas.
“WFP has already responded with food from their emergency stocks, so have UNICEF, and WHO, have all provided from their pre-positioned emergency stocks in medicine, water supply and water purification tablets. We need to be sure that we have correct assessment in terms of need for medicines, water sanitation and that we’ll get after a second assessment in the coming days,” Sauvage said.
The North Korean government has been suspected of diverting the food aid intened for the needy to its huge military force. The government has also asked for fuel assistance.
Sauvage said the U.N. conducts its own needs assessment as soon as it can to insure they are correct and that it does not supply fuel for North Korea.
The communist country is under international sanctions for developing illegal nuclear programs and conducting ballistic arms tests.