North Korea is a country of approximately 24 million people who have struggled since the early 1990s from the consequences of a dramatic economic downturn and a series of natural disasters which devastated agricultural production.
This ultimately led to widespread famine which took the lives of approximately one million people. During this period, the country saw a 50% fall in per capita income, a decline in life expectancy and increased infant mortality rates.
Although there have been some small advancements, the country has yet to recover from this setback, and has since then periodically been reliant on external humanitarian assistance, particularly in the form of food aid.
Mission East acts to help the most vulnerable
Mission East began its work in North Korea in 2011 in response to a series of dramatic weather incidents which damaged the previous harvest and led to cuts in government food rations for the population to only one-third of the daily energy requirements.
Heavy floods in North Hamyong province have made thousands of people homeless. Mission East is one of the few international aid organisations in the area and provides clean drinking water and hygiene training so that the local population is not infected by dirty river water.
By Svend Løbner, freelance journalist
When there is a half hour walk to fetch clean water, you often compromise with proper hygiene. Juyang Hui from North Korea had to walk half an hour twice a day to reach the nearest well and fetch water for her family. The 34-year-old woman lives with her husband and eight-year-old son in the village of Sony outside Kujang.
There is hope for the people of North Korea, Kim Hartzner learned when he visited the country in November. It was a life-affirming visit, where he on first hand saw the enormous progress that has been made since the Mission East began to work there in 2012.
Despite the harsh words of the past months, everything seems to be ‘business as usual’. This is the feeling when you are inside North Korea, according to Kim Hartzner, Managing Director of the Danish NGO Mission East.
He just returned from the country after visiting orphanages and victims of last year’s flooding.