With fast action to rescue staple crops 'we can save lives' in DPR Korea,' UNICEF says
8 July 2015 – Children are already suffering as a result of drought in some parts of the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK), where deaths of young children attributed to diarrhoea have increased seriously in the first six months of 2015 in the drought-affected provinces, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
"The situation is urgent," said UNICEF Regional Director Daniel Toole in a press release. "But if we act now – by providing urgently needed expertise and prepositioning supplies – we can save lives."
According to the agency, rainfall figures and information from humanitarian agencies and the DPRK Government indicate that parts of the country are already facing serious drought. Several of the country's drought-affected provinces are key sources of staple food crops, UNICEF said, putting imperilling the main harvest, which could dramatically increase the numbers of children at serious risk.
"If we delay until we are certain of crop failures, it may well be too late to save the most vulnerable children," Mr. Toole warned.
UNICEF said its personnel have recently met with local health officials in affected provinces of DPRK who confirm reports of significant increases in diarrhoea among children, as the absence of rain threatens access to safe water and sanitation.
"Lack of rain reduces access to clean water and undermines effective hygiene, putting children's lives at risk," according to Mr. Toole. "UNICEF has already received reports that the incidence of diarrhoea – globally a leading cause of death among young children – has increased seriously in the first six months of 2015 in the drought-affected provinces."
Data UNICEF has received shows that three provinces, North Hwanghae, South Hamgyong and South Hwanghae, are most affected by the decline in rainfall.
UNICEF's concern about the impact of the drought is heightened by the existing poor nutritional status of many children in DPRK.
A 2012 study showed one-quarter of all children in the country had symptoms of chronic malnutrition – a condition that is usually caused by a combination of unsafe water and poor sanitation, inadequate food intake, and inadequate access to health services.
UNICEF has released prepositioned emergency supplies to help those in the worst-affected provinces, including water purification tablets, water storage containers and health supplies for children with severe acute malnutrition. Training on how to treat children with severe acute malnutrition has also been stepped up.
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