Following a bitter winter and flood-infused summer, North Korea is facing its worst food crisis in a decade and 6 million people in the country are at risk.
The crisis has led to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to send a call out Tuesday to donors to invest in its emergency related programs, as the lack of food in North Korea is having a huge impact on children.
UNICEF spokesman Chris Tidey told Reuters that one in five North Korean children under the age of five suffer from moderate malnutrition.
Tidey also told the news agency that 11,400 children die each year before the age of five while one and three children in the country have not properly developed due to malnutrition, causing moderate stunting to become a rampant occurrence among North Korean youth.
The North Korea country director of the World Food Program told CNN of the crisis, “There is a very high rate of children and also adults who are much shorter than you would expect them to be, and why does this happen, because it’s a long story of suffering.”
This past year’s harsh winter and summer flooding is making it almost impossible for the isolated country to feed itself.
A very thin farm manager recently told Reuters, “We had heavy rain for two months through July that’s why the maize couldn’t get enough nutrients to grow properly. We now expect to harvest only 15 percent of the maize output we had originally planned.”
The Sunday Telegraph had illustrated the dismal situation in a summer report.
The British magazine reported on clandestine interviews conducted with four North Koreans that had fled the country in order to find work abroad to support their families back home.
The migrants told the magazine that the situation in the country is so desperate that they were forced to flee their country in order to survive.
A grandfather, Mr. Kim, told the magazine of his five grandchildren, “They are very weak. My heart hurt every time I saw them; the impact of what they are suffering will take two generations to heal.”
One man, a former government servant said that his family has succumbed to eating “grasses” and argued that his high social status enabled his family to have better access to food but argued "imagine how others are fairing if we have reached this point."
He added, “People walk around with cloth bundles on their backs, and inside them they carry their whole lives: whatever they have to sell or eat, some small household items, some rice-cakes they have made. It is all they have.”
North Korea is no stranger to famine as its population suffered a severe famine during the 1990s. It is estimated between 900,000 and 3.5 million people died in the crisis.
Although the food situation in North Korea is destitute, world leaders and institutions struggle to determine whether to distribute aid to the country out of fear that food aid will not go to those who most need it.
One of the North Korean refugees that was interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph confirmed concerns that food aid would most likely land in the laps of politicians and military officials and ultimately end up on the black market.
However, the woman who escaped her country to be able to feed her family argued that the international community should still send aid despite corruption because, "The people will get very little - but it will be enough to survive."
To watch a video of children in North Korea’s food crisis please view below.