PORTLAND, Ore. – Mercy Corps is rushing relief to rain-soaked North Korea, where torrential downpours have buried large areas of the country, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless and without access to clean water.
Mercy Corps will provide nearly five tons of essential medicines and medical supplies to forestall water-borne diseases and treat affected populations. This assistance, which will reach approximately 100,000 people, is funded by the USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and private donors. Mercy Corps is coordinating with partner agencies Samaritan's Purse and Global Resources Services as well as with local representatives to identify and respond to the most urgent needs.
"Over the last decade, Mercy Corps has developed a relationship of trust and respect with the North Korean people," said Jim White, Mercy Corps Vice President of Program Operations. "At this critical time, we want to reach out to families who are suffering huge losses as a result of flooding."
The UN estimates that in hard-hit North Pyongan province, flooding has heavily damaged or destroyed more than 7,100 homes, and 17,790 acres of farmland have been submerged or washed away. Heavy rains have washed out numerous bridges and railway lines, and created widespread power and telecommunications outages. The flooding has also jeopardized North Korea's already-fragile agricultural capacity, reportedly inundating or washing away valuable crop lands – sparking fears of widespread food shortages.
Mercy Corps has worked with vulnerable North Korean families and communities since 1996, striving to help meet health and nutritional needs as well as collaborating on long-term agricultural and economic solutions. In 2008, Mercy Corps was the lead of five aid agencies that implemented a groundbreaking USAID-funded food program in Chagang and North Pyongan Provinces.
The organization's co-founder, Ells Culver, reached out to the North Korean people after the country suffered years of drought, flooding and food shortages. That diplomacy has led to an extraordinary partnership that includes farmer exchanges between North Korea and the United States' Pacific Northwest. Mercy Corps has long been at the forefront of efforts to bring reconciliation and mutual understanding to the sometimes-contentious relationship between North Korea and the United States. Through the East Asia Advisory Committee and National Committee for North Korea, Mercy Corps is bringing together various stakeholders to discuss ideas for collaboration.