North Korea is experiencing its worst food shortage since the 1990s famine.
Painting a picture of a population in distress, the Los Angeles Times reporter saw people combing through the grass looking for edible weeds. “Sprawled on the lawn outside a bathhouse, poorly dressed people lie on the grass, either with no better place to go or no energy to do so at 10 a.m. on a weekday,” it said.
Aid agencies are quoted as saying children were suffering from kwashiorkor, or hunger belly, the swollen abdomen and other symptoms associated with extreme malnutrition. “Hospitals complained to aid workers of rising infant mortality and declining birth weight,” the daily said. “The number of patients with digestive disorders caused largely by poor nutrition rose 20 percent to 40 percent.”
A recent survey of 375 North Korean households by the World Food Programme showed that more than 70 percent fill the shortage with weeds collected from fields. Most adults have started skipping lunch, reducing their diet to two meals a day, according to another survey.