SOLYMONE BLOG

N. KOREAN CHILDREN PLIGHT SUNK FROM DIRE TO DESPERATE?


PYONGYANG, N. Korea - The North Korean people harvest rice and corn in the fall and potatoes in January and February. By the time May and June come around, those crops are scarce and serious famine hits the nation. Since the Iraqi war, North Korea has been under martial law, which has made it impossible for world news media to report on its status.
However, a recent report by the North Korean Refugees Assistance Fund (NKRA) contains the testimony of 200 North Korean witnesses and tells of the disastrous starvation the face.
  • Food shortages are leaving many children in North Korea severely malnourished, with aid groups warning that some could face starvation without access to food. A group of children huddled in a tent are among many North Koreans whose plight has sunk from dire to desperate.
  • In a hospital ward in South Hwanghae Province, emaciated toddlers are shown daubed with antiseptic, and attached to drips. All show signs of malnutrition, including skin infection, hair loss and stunted growth.
  • In July this year, flooding destroyed their nursery school, along with thousands of houses and tens of thousands of hectares of crops in the chief grain-producing province of a nation already beset by severe food shortages.
North Korea was already suffering from international sanctions and high global food prices when, according to officials, this year's harsh winter wiped out two-thirds of South Hwanghae's barley, wheat and potato harvests.
Then came torrential summer rains, floods, and two typhoons, which the government says destroyed 80 percent of the province's corn harvest. The October rice crop looks healthy. But the authorities say waterlogged soil will dramatically reduce its yield.
  • In the provincial capital of Haeju, municipal officials say flood damage to the mains system has left 40 percent of the population without fresh water. This has added gastric disease to widespread malnutrition, which is a problem especially common among young children.
  • While nobody disputes the presence of malnutrition, some experts say much of South Hwanghae's output is used to feed the army because of its closeness to Pyongyang. Others suspect hoarding ahead of celebrations next year to mark the centenary of the birth of the nation's founder Kim Jong-il.
America and South Korea were the north's two biggest donors until they suspended aid in 2008. Seoul abandoned an offer to provide emergency flood aid this week, saying the North had not responded. On Thursday South Korea's unification minister, Yu Woo-ik, told his country's parliament he didn't think the food situation in the North was very serious.
Source: Agency
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