DPR Korea: Drought and Food Insecurity - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF n° MDRKP013

Situation Report
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A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

DPRK is currently experiencing a challenging food insecurity situation. Unusually little precipitation during the winter and spring so far is posing a serious threat to the spring harvest, at a time when the harvest in 2018 was the worst in a decade.

DPRK is suffering from droughts that have occurred consecutively in recent years. In 2014, a dry spell that persisted for over 18 months caused drought, affecting agricultural production and access to water, and left 18 million public distribution system (PDS) dependents at risk of food insecurity, malnutrition and illness. In June 2017, the Government declared a national emergency following a dry spell that affected key food producing provinces in the south-west of the country. The 2017 dry spell stressed the early season crops and constrained planting and early growth of main season crops. The Government mobilized communities and resources to provide irrigation, to reduce any impact from the dry spell. In 2018, emergency response was declared due to unusual high temperature and drought. The response of the Government and Red Cross Society of DPRK was focused on preserving the crops from the heatwave and drought like weather conditions.

Entering 2019, DPRK has experienced unusually erratic weather conditions with little precipitation, limiting the soil moisture for growth of winter and planting of spring crops as well as replenishment of water reservoirs for irrigation. The temperatures over the last couple of months have also been higher than normal. Early spring precipitation has so far not been enough to redress the imbalance and only very good late spring/early summer rains will do so. The conditions for soil moisture and irrigation are at an alarming level. The current lack of precipitation and soil moisture will not only affect winter and spring-planted crops, but also the planting of subsistence crop as well as the main crop to be harvested in September.

According to FAO, winter and spring-planted crops are important for the food security in DPRK, although they account for only 8 percent of total annual cereal production in DPRK. The winter and spring-planted crops backup the food supplies until September, when the main season harvesting begins. Thus, the winter and spring harvest is crucial in the lean season summer months. If the early season crop production would suffer, the food insecurity situation in DPRK will be further aggravated.

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 of the affected population – children, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly, and those with underlying illness.

While the reduction in food production in 2018, as seen below, may not look too severe in comparison to previous years, it is important to remember that DPRK is already suffering from a protracted food crisis, making the population vulnerable to any further loss of harvest and food. Food production in 2018 in DPRK was 4 951 025 tons, which was the lowest over the past decade. It was 9.22 percent less than in 2017 and 10.66 percent less than the previous six-year average (2012-2017). According to FAO, the sharp decline of production was due to a decrease in total cropped area as well as yields. The yields suffered badly during the disasters in DPRK in 2018: heatwave, floods, and landslides.