South Korea gave $4.5 million to the World Food Program on Wednesday to address the growing hunger crisis in North Korea, the WFP announced.
More than 10.1 million people don’t have enough food to eat in North Korea, following the worst harvest in more than a decade. The WFP has called for 300,000 tons of food, or $275 million in aid, to deal with the crisis.
“The DPRK has been hit hard by drought and poor harvests that have left millions of hungry children, women, and men facing severe food shortages over the coming months,” said David Kaatrud, a WFP spokesman, in a statement.
South Korea’s donation, together with a planned delivery of 50,000 tons of rice, represents the largest aid package the country has sent to its northern neighbor since 2008, Reuters reports. WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said that the donation “will support 1.5 million to 2 million children, pregnant, and nursing mothers.”
North Korea’s agricultural output plummeted over the past year amid an extreme drought that prevented farmers from bringing their crops to harvest. The drought worsened existing agricultural problems including a general lack of technology, government support, and income for farmers.
Because of the poor harvest, millions of people, especially in rural areas, are severely food insecure. In May, the government cut food rations to just 11 ounces per person per day.
The country’s food crisis is deepened by the harsh economic sanctions imposed on the country by the United Nations at the behest of the United States for developing nuclear weapons. The sanctions have created an economic crisis by preventing industries in the country from engaging in trade.
North Korea had already suffered from extreme food insecurity. More than 18 million North Koreans rely on government food aid to avoid malnutrition, according to a UN report.
The current food crisis resembles a famine in the 1990s that killed 3 million people, and WFP officials fear that unless aid is mobilized a similar tragedy could unfold.
Although South Korea’s donation will mitigate hunger for some of the population, organizations may have difficulty delivering it to families, according to Reuters.
The sanctions facing North Korea have made it hard to deliver supplies to the country via boat because aid officials fear the government will seize and profit off of it. Further, the sanctions have created hurdles that make it hard for most aid organizations to work in the country.
“As with all its food assistance operations in DPRK, WFP will require that high standards for access and monitoring are in place before taking responsibility to distribute any aid,” the WFP said in a statement.