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10 million North Koreans face food shortages after bleak harvest

Secret footage shot in North Korea shows a woman lying in a street, her death probably caused by starvation, in a scene that North Korean refugees say is a common sight.

[PYONGYANG] About 10 million North Koreans - 40 per cent of the population - are in urgent need of food assistance after heat and drought crippled last year's harvest, according to the United Nations.

The country collected about 4.9 million tons of food crops last year, the least in a decade, after a prolonged dry spell and limited agricultural inputs cut yields, the agency's Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a report. Post-harvest losses are also expected to mount as fuel and electricity shortages crimp crop transportation and processing.

North Korea is under economic sanctions amid pressure for it to abandon nuclear weapons and programmes. Though there are small amounts of planned commercial imports and food assistance, the nation is seen short of about 1.4 million tons of grains in the 2018-19 season, and a government distribution system has cut rations to a record low for this time of year.

"Many families survive on a monotonous diet of rice and kimchi most of the year, eating very little protein," said Nicolas Bidault, one of the leaders of the UN's recent mission to the country. "Any further cuts to already minimal food rations could push them deep into a hunger crisis."


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