Description of the disaster
According to the DPRK state media, Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, an emergency response was declared on 2 August 2018 because of unusually hot weather. On the same day, DPRK RCS officially informed IFRC of a developing slow onset emergency in both South Pyongan and South Hamgyong provinces due to a heat wave affecting the Korean Peninsula that has also severely affected the routine of people, agricultural activities and crops. The heat wave, starting as early as 11 July 2018, has brought on record temperatures as high as 40℃ across the country, and deaths from the heat wave have been reported. The heat wave has also seriously affected the main agricultural producers in the southern provinces of the country. Monitoring reports from health centres and detailed assessments by the DPRK RCS are expected soon.
It was reported that this heat wave has been caused by the presence of two lingering high-pressure weather systems that have trapped warm and humid air above the region, affecting other countries in the region, i.e. Japan and South Korea with reported hospital admissions, including deaths of human and livestock.
While there are no deaths (due to the heatwave) officially reported in DPRK, the scenario that has occurred in the two neighbouring countries mentioned indicate a likelihood of some loss of lives in DPRK, where conventional interventions like the provision of air-conditioners or mobile cooling units are not possible due to an unstable electrical grid, and the lack of supporting infrastructure. The absence of these interventions increases the vulnerability of the population but have been mitigated by the deployment of family tents where farmers may retreat to have some respite from the heat. Already, people’s lifestyles have been altered due to the heat wave. Currently, farmers have changed their working times to the early morning and late afternoon hours to avoid heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke. This change has also been applied to farmers’ markets that are now opening in the late afternoon instead of the usual early afternoon.
Nevertheless, the full extent is still pending ongoing assessments by DPRK RCS.
With few other options to intervene with existing resources in-country, the focus by DPRK RCS and the government of DPRK is to concentrate on preserving the crops that are due for harvest in September. Any threat to food security will have a serious effect on an already stressed population in terms of food availability and the risk of increased malnutrition which will affect the most vulnerable sectors of the affected population – children, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses.
Initial reports indicate crop damage synonymous with the occurrences of the dry spells of 2014 and 2017.