A heatwave in North Korea is causing rice, maize and other crops to wither in fields, with charities warning it could lead to a “full-blown food security crisis”.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says the isolated country has had no rainfall since early July, with temperatures reaching an average 39C (102F) nationwide.
As about 70% of North Koreans are already “food insecure”, meaning they struggle to find enough to eat, the IFRC believes the current heatwave could have “potentially catastrophic effects”.
Currently, 25% of children under the age of five are thought to be stunted from chronic malnutrition.
Back in the mid-1990s, a famine in North Korea killed up to three million people.
The IFRC has said recent sanctions imposed on the secretive state because of its nuclear and missile ambitions have worsened things further.
Joseph Muyamboit, the federation’s programme manager in Pyongyang, said: “Previous serious dry spells have disrupted the food supply to a point where it has caused serious health problems and malnutrition across the country.”
The IFRC says it is helping the national Red Cross to support 13,700 of the most vulnerable people at risk in two provinces – deploying emergency response teams and 20 water pumps to irrigate fields in the hardest-hit areas.
The country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, smiled broadly recently as he visiting a catfish plant and a factory.
But last week, North Korea called for an “all-out battle” against the record temperatures threatening crops, and referred to an “unprecedented natural disaster”.