North Korea is likely to go through a "full-blown food security crisis" amid a heat wave that has destroyed fields of rice, maize and other crops, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned.
The world's largest disaster relief network said in a statement issued in Geneva on Friday that the international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its missile and nuclear programs had exacerbated the worrying situation, Presstv Reported.
The UN imposed its toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang test-fired new ballistic missiles in July last year and then conducted its most powerful nuclear test in September 2017. The United States and the European Union (EU) have also imposed wide-ranging, unilateral bans against Pyongyang.
According to the IFRC, North Korea has not seen a drop of rain since early July as temperatures soared to an average 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) across the country. The next rainfall was expected in mid-August.
The statement further said that the population of 25 million is already stressed and vulnerable with malnutrition among children that could worsen, stunting their growth.
"This is not yet classified as a drought, but rice, maize and other crops are already withering in the fields, with potentially catastrophic effects for the people of DPRK," said Joseph Muyamboit, the IFRC's program manager in Pyongyang, using the abbreviation for the country’s official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"We cannot and must not let this situation become a full-blown food security crisis. We know that previous serious dry spells have disrupted the food supply to a point where it has caused serious health problems and malnutrition across the country," he added.
Last week, Pyongyang urged an "all-out battle" against the record temperatures threatening crops, referred to an "unprecedented natural disaster."
A famine hit North Korea in the mid-1990s and killed up to three million people.
The IFRC had deployed emergency response teams and 20 water pumps to irrigate fields in the hardest-hit areas in the country, which lacks irrigation systems and other infrastructure to ward off natural disasters.
It was also helping the national Red Cross to support 13,700 of the most vulnerable people at risk, in South Hamgyong and South Pyongan provinces.
Back in May, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said around 70 percent of North Koreans are "food insecure," meaning constantly struggling against hunger, adding that one out of every four kids under five is stunted from chronic malnutrition.