Amid food shortages, N.Korea deploys officers to fight drought

North Korean office employees and manufacturing workers had been deployed to farmland areas around the nation to help combat the drought, amid fears of extended food shortages.

Despite small gains early last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for efforts to ease a precarious food situation exacerbated by the coronavirus epidemic and typhoons.

Droughts and floods have always been a yearly threat to North Korea, which lacks irrigation systems and other infrastructure, and any significant natural disasters may further devastate its isolated economy, which is already hurting from international sanctions and a near-halt in trade.

According to the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper, government officials, corporate and industrial employees teamed up with farmers around the country to distribute pumping equipment and enhance water supplies in drought-prone areas.

It did not disclose any damages at this time, but stated that the actions are targeted at combating an existing drought and preparing for an impending drought.

The article stated that “systematic, vigorous efforts are underway to promote public awareness and mobilize all available resources to minimize agricultural loss from drought in advance.”

According to the media, North Korea’s meteorological services warned of persistent dry weather across the country until early next week.

Last Monday, the meteorological service reported that the average temperature in April was 2.3 degrees Celsius (36.1 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than typical, with only 44% of the average rainfall across the country.

People built ponds, poured fertilizer and growth booster to crops, and dispatched tractors, trucks, and cultivators to deliver water to farms in Anju and Kaechon, north of Pyongyang, Rodong said.

According to another dispatch, canals were recently established in the eastern port city of Hamhung as part of efforts to modernize and extend irrigational facilities. These juvenile labor groups are known as dolgyeokdae or youth brigades and are generally mobilized in large infrastructure projects.

The UN asked Pyongyang to reopen its borders to relief workers and food shipments in March, claiming that the country’s worsening isolation had put many people at risk of hunger.

North Korea has not verified any COVID-19 cases, but it has closed its borders and imposed travel restrictions before restarting commerce with China earlier this year for a limited period.

Even before the epidemic, the World Food Program estimated that 11 million people, or more than 40% of the population, were malnourished and in need of humanitarian aid.

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