North Korea has been hit by the worst drought since 2001 which has “severely damaged” crop production, according to a U.N. report published Thursday.
Well below average rainfall meant that early season crops harvested in June such as wheat, barley and potatoes were down by 30 percent, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The crops are an important source of food during the May-to-September lean season and food imports will be needed over the next three months, the FAO said.
An unknown number of North Koreans died in the famine of the 1990s, which was caused by combination of drought and economic crisis. Estimates range from hundreds of thousands of dead to a few million.
The reclusive country also suffered a famine in 2001 when it was hit by the longest drought in 300 years.
North Korea’s food security situation is expected to further deteriorate because rains in July came too late to allow the normal planting of main season crops, harvested between October and November, the FAO said.
“Immediate interventions are needed to support affected farmers and prevent undesirable coping strategies for the most vulnerable, such as reducing daily food intakes,” Vincent Martin, FAO representative in China and North Korea.
Around 70 percent of the North Korea’s 25.1 million-strong population are “food insecure” according to the World Food Program (WFP), which also says that many suffer chronic malnutrition and that a quarter of children are stunted.
The country is prone to natural disasters and U.N. sanctions on the country over its nuclear program have also made efforts to aid it more difficult, the WFP says.