DPR Korea: Heat Wave Emergency Plan of Action Operation Update n° 2 DREF Operation n° MDRKP010

Situation Report
Originally published
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Summary of major revisions made to emergency plan of action:

The major change to this emergency plan of action is an extraordinary extension of three months of the DREF timeline, until 9 May 2019. The extension is to allow additional time for the delayed replenishment of family tents, onion tanks, and water hoses to DPRK. These items are delayed due to the pending approval for exemption by the 1718 Sanctions Committee. The goods are currently being held in the IFRC warehouse in Kuala Lumpur, ready to be shipped. Just prior to publishing this operations update, on the 31 January 2019, exemption was granted for the items above. These items will therefore be shipped shortly. The extension is still required to allow time for shipping, delivery, and monitoring of the same.


Description of the disaster

An emergency situation was declared by the DPRK Government 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 Phyongan and South Hamgyong provinces due to a heat wave affecting the Korean Peninsula that has also severely affected the routine of people’s livelihood, 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.

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 increased the vulnerability of the population but was mitigated by the deployment of family tents where farmers retreated to have some respite from the heat. Already, people’s lifestyles have been altered due to the heat wave, although the impact might also affect DPRK further during next lean season. During the heatwave, farmers changed their working times to the early morning and late afternoon hours to avoid heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke.
With few other options to intervene with existing resources in-country, the focus by DPRK RCS and the government of DPRK was to concentrate on preserving the crops that were 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.

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. Humanitarian partners like European Unit Projects (EUPs) and UN agencies also provided support to the responses. Despite these efforts, total food production (in cereal equivalent) in 2017 was 5.45 MT, a 7.42 per cent decrease from the previous year’s 5.89 MT. This means that there is an urgent need to deploy irrigation equipment that will facilitate and sustain agricultural activities to reduce crop failure due to the heat wave.
Without water, there will be no food for subsistence farmers, and the lives of these vulnerable communities will be threatened as was in 2017 when the dry spell compounded the undernutrition situation, putting at risk the lives of 782,000 children under five and 313,629 pregnant and lactating women.

The IASC Index for Risk Management (INFORM) ranks DPRK 41 out of 191 countries in terms of disaster risk. Floods and drought regularly strike the country – sometimes both during the same year. An estimated 6.2 million people have been affected by natural disasters between 2004 and 2016. Furthermore, climate change is exacerbating visible impacts, with the degradation of natural resources affecting agricultural production.