(SkyNews) The situation in the isolated state is being described as “very serious”, and there are fears a famine could follow within months.
North Korea has cut official rations down to 300g per person, per day after the isolated state suffered its worst harvest in a decade.
The United Nations says 40% of the population – about 10.1 million people – are chronically short of food and do not have enough supplies to last until the next harvest.
An investigation by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) found that many families only consume protein a few times a year.
WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel described the current situation as “very serious” – and warned the country could face a famine within a matter of months or years.
A famine in the mid-1990s is believed to have killed as many as three million people.
The WFP carried out a food security assessment at Pyongyang’s request from 29 March to 12 April, with research teams visiting nurseries, farms and households in rural and urban areas.
Dry spells, heatwaves and flooding are being blamed for the new crisis, but the US State Department has claimed that North Korea’s government is responsible.
More from China
- Huawei: China’s UK ambassador urges government to resist external pressure
- China’s new ‘Silk Road’ reaches nearly £3trn in investment – but what is it and why is Washington worried?
- Microsoft under pressure to resist Chinese censorship of worker protest
- As atheist China shuts churches, Christians pray in secret
- Amazon to close its online store in China
- China’s GDP figures show signs of recovery
A US spokeswoman said North Korea could meet people’s needs if it redirected state funds, adding: “The DPRK regime continues to exploit, starve, and neglect its own people in order to advance its unlawful nuclear and weapons programme.”
North Korea’s agricultural output slipped to 4.9 million tonnes in 2018-19, meaning the country is 1.36 million tonnes short of what it needs.
Prospects for wheat and barley so far in 2019 are equally worrisome, with Mr Verhoosel warning: “The effects of repeated climate shocks are compounded by shortages of fuel, fertiliser and spare parts crucial for farming.”
North Korea, which is subject to punishing economic sanctions because of its nuclear activities, has relied on regular supplies of UN food aid for years.
The WFP is planning to perform another assessment during July and August.