Seoul: June rainfall has helped alleviate what North Korea has described as its worst drought for a century, although key rice-producing areas remain badly affected, the South Korean government said Friday.
"It seems that ... the situation has considerably eased," Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee told reporters.
The ministry said that, following an extremely dry May, rainfall in June had reached 90 percent of the level recorded a year ago.
Nevertheless, Jeong said crucial rice-producing provinces such as Hwanghae and Hamgyeong were "still grappling with a prolonged drought" that would require close monitoring.
North Korean state media has called the drought the "worst in 100 years" and, according to the UN World Food Programme, early-harvest crops, mainly wheat and barley, have already been affected.
The UN Children`s Fund, UNICEF, warned on Thursday that urgent action was required to prevent the deaths of children already weakened by widespread malnutrition.
A 2012 study showed one-quarter of all North Korean children had symptoms of chronic malnutrition -- a condition usually caused by a combination of unsafe water and poor sanitation, inadequate food intake, and inadequate access to health services.
North Korea has suffered regular chronic food shortages -- hundreds of thousands are believed to have died during a famine in the mid-to-late 1990s -- with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement.
International food aid, especially from South Korea and the United States, has been drastically cut amid tensions over the communist state`s nuclear and missile programmes.
UN figures show up to 70 percent of the country remains food insecure.