WFP DPR Korea Update No 12

Situation Report
Originally published


Winter conditions in DPRK have been particularly severe this year. For the first two weeks of the month roads were blocked and travel by Emergency Officers was restricted for safety reasons. Many roads were sheets of ice. Sub-office staff returning to Hyesan and Chongjin were turned back as the roads over the mountain passes were blocked.
Conditions eased as the month progressed and all sub-offices are now staffed again. On arrival at the WFP office in Hyesan, staff reported that it was - 19 outside and - 13 in the hallways of the hotel where the sub-office is located. Additional kerosene heaters supplied by WFP brought the temperature up to about 4C. However, the water stored in the bathtub was covered in a thick layer of ice.

While WFP can ease conditions for staff, for the people of the DPRK life during winter is extremely difficult. Factories, offices and institutions - including hospitals - are not heated. Schools and kindergartens close during this very cold time of the year. WFP Emergency Officers report that attendance is down in nurseries due to the cold.

As predicted power generation has been affected by the low rainfall last summer. Pyongyang is subject to numerous power cuts. Public transport is all electric-powered meaning the people often have to traverse this large city in sub-zero temperatures.

The situation is worse in the counties. County officials at Suan county in North Hwangae told WFP that they had stopped generating electricity completely due to lack of water. They had decided to save the water for agriculture in the spring.

Very few people are seen walking along roads or in fields which are frozen solid. Those who are out are all in pursuit of fuel for cooking and warming their homes. This is a woman's role and they are regularly seen with a wooden frame - similar to a rucksack frame - tied to their backs to collect sticks. This is a predominantly hilly country and the effect this deforestation has on the environment is of grave concern.

...Pipeline Alert...

If additional pledges are not received this month WFP's cereal contributions will run out in April. The break in food supply will have serious consequences for the North Korean people during the lean season between April and June. Supplies of edible oil will run out at the end of July, and pulses will last until mid-September.

Nutrition Survey

The government has informed WFP and UNICEF that a nutrition survey will take place in April 2000 conducted by the government. There will be no international participation like the UNICEF/WFP/EU survey in 1998.


No change in access for the fourth month running
Access : 163
No Access : 48
Total : 211


WFP Emergency Officers conducted a total of 227 monitoring visits in January. This number is slightly lower than normal due to severe winter conditions restricting travel.

PDS distributions in January were reported at 300 grams of cereals per person per day.

Overall, the food available from last year's harvest is reported to be more than in 1998.

The PDS is expected to continue distributing harvest food until June 2000. Ration rates between February and June however will be reduced to as low as 150 grams per person per day. In 1998 the PDS stopped distributions at the beginning of April.

Emergency Officers report that alternative food is being distributed in Nampo City and two counties in South Pyongan and two counties in North Hwangae.

(pdf* format)

* Get Adobe Acrobat Viewer (free)