Kim Il-sung Square, Pyongyang, North Korea. Women and children under the age of five are the most vulnerable to water-borne diseases in North Korea. Photo by Astrelok/Shutterstock
SEOUL, July 6 (UPI) -- North Korea is seeking U.N. medical assistance as it continues to battle what it says is the "worst drought in 100 years."
Authorities in Pyongyang have requested medication that could help prevent water-borne diseases, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Sunday.
The request was sent after the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization had conducted a survey of conditions in the North Korean province of Hwanghae in June, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
In its recent report, the joint team of U.N. investigators said women and children under the age of five were the most vulnerable to water-borne diseases in North Korea.
The international team said North Korea has been affected by a severe drought for the last 18 months, resulting in a lack of drinking water and the deterioration of water quality in the country.
In Hwanghae province, where two different crops are planted annually, barley crop production was forecasted to be 40 to 50 percent less than the previous year.
If dry weather persists in North Korea, rice and corn production is expected to yield 30 to 40 percent less than the last season.
The international team said North Korea had said it does not have the capability to cope with the drought independently – and that U.N. support is needed.
Other agencies involved in the relief effort are UNICEF, Save the Children International and two French aid organizations.
It is estimated 70 percent, or 18 million North Koreans are experiencing some kind of food shortage.
In the area of healthcare, the U.N. said in April 25 percent of North Koreans cannot receive basic vaccines, and 27.9 percent of children under the age of 5 are suffering from chronic malnutrition. A lack of drinking water for 7 million North Koreans also leads to malnutrition and disease.