(June 2013) Welthungerhilfe is the last remaining German aid agency in North Korea. Gerhard Uhrmacher, Head of Project for North Korea, reports on the current situation. He maintains close contact with local staff on a daily basis.
Daily life in North Korea is not significantly affected by military mobilisation at this time. People go about their daily lives as usual. Next week is a big national holiday, and families and government agencies are preparing for this event.
Poverty and hunger: not a new problem
Food is always scarce in North Korea. This is due to the country's very cold winters, dry soils and heavy monsoon rains in the summer. Now it is spring, and the country is facing a familiar situation of scarcity: most food supplies have been used up even before the new harvest is growing. This means that people do not have enough to eat. And it is particularly children who suffer. Undernourishment and malnutrition make six-year olds look like four-year olds, reports Katja Richter, manager of the Welthungerhilfe office in the capital city of Pyongyang.
Welthungerhilfe's work on location
At this time, Welthungerhilfe is in the process of carrying out six large projects in North Korea, which focus on promoting local agriculture, improving harvests and storage, and growing food that is adapted to the climate and soil quality. The organisation also conducts education, training and activities in the area of sustainable water and sanitary supplies.
All of these projects are continuing. This is a particularly important time for the supported agricultural operations, farmer cooperatives and small farmers: the planting of the new harvest. This is the time they must focus on future food supplies and family incomes, regardless of political events. Fields are being prepared, seeds are planted and storage locations are inspected and improved.
Security situation is monitored on a daily basis
Since May 2013 project visits continued. In April there were no visits and travel to Welthungerhilfe project regions because of conflicts and provocations. The security situation is monitored on a daily basis, and Welthungerhilfe maintains close contacts with government authorities, embassies and the Korean foreign ministry.
No risks will be taken!
The project office in Pyongyang remains open, and Welthungerhilfe staff, which has already been in the country for many years, is continuing to go about its work in an effort to maintain relatively normal operations. An increase in the number of controls and sanctions has been noted recently, which has affected the time schedule and organisation of the project work in particular: fund transfers have become more difficult, and controls are slowing down the transport of relief items. For the employees, this means higher work and time requirements.