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Crisis grips North Korean rice bowl

Reuters reports:

Isolated North Korea has appealed for food aid following a series of natural disasters and years of mismanagement. In South Hwanghae province, which traditionally produces about a third of the country's total cereal supply, officials say a savage winter wiped out 65 percent of the barley, wheat and potato crops. Then summer floods and storms destroyed 80 percent of the maize harvest, according to the province's governing People's Committee, and may have an impact on the October rice harvest.

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

A child suffering from malnutrition rests in a bed in a hospital in Haeju on Sept. 30. Editor's note: These images were taken on a government controlled tour.

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

A child suffering from malnutrition rests in a bed in a hospital in Haeju on Oct. 1. The purple paste on the child's face works as an antiseptic but also makes wounds and cuts dry faster.

Only 30 percent of a U.N. food aid target for North Korea has been met so far. The United States and South Korea, the North's two biggest donors before sanctions, have said they won't resume aid until they are satisfied the military-led communist regime will not divert the aid for its own uses and progress is made on disarmament talks.

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

A boy working on a collective farm in South Hwanghae province on Sept. 30, in the area that was affected by summer floods and typhoons.

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Girls look through a window at a foreign delegation visiting a school in Haeju on Oct. 1.

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

A meal prepared by a woman who lost her house in summer floods is seen in her tent in South Hwanghae province on Sept. 30.

Read the entire special report.

Photographer Damir Sagolj described his experiences in North Korea for Reuters' blog:

The hardest aspect of this assignment, like many times in my career, was to see the children suffering knowing their status might not change before it’s too late. It is always difficult to leave a room after photographing a helpless child, weak and sick, whose life might be very short even by North Korean standards – according to the UN, North Koreans live on average 11 years less than South Koreans due mainly to malnutrition.