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Millions in North Korea ‘desperately need aid’

15 March 2019


A labourer works in the paddy fields surrounding a farm in Hwanggumpyong Island in the middle of Yalu river, near the town of Sinuiju, in North Korea

A labourer works in the paddy fields surrounding a farm in Hwanggumpyong Island in the middle of Yalu river, near the town of Sinuiju, in North Korea

ALMOST four million North Koreans are in “desperate need” of humanitarian aid, the UN has said.

Releasing its 2019 Needs and Priorities Plan for the country, it said that 3.8 million people were in need. The UN’s resident co-ordinator in the country, Tapan Mishra, said that the “time to act is now”.

Mr Mishra writes in the report: “An estimated 11 million ordinary men, women, and children lack sufficient nutritious food, clean drinking water, or access to basic services like health and sanitation. Widespread under-nutrition threatens an entire generation of children, with one in five stunted as a result of chronic under-nutrition. Coupled with limited health-care throughout the country, children are also at risk of dying from curable diseases.

“As worrying as the lack of nutritious food is the acute lack of access to clean water and sanitation, especially in the most remote areas of the country. Almost 10 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, and 16 per cent of people do not have access to even basic sanitation facilities. This enhances the risk of high rates of disease, as well as malnutrition. This, in turn, places increased pressure on the health system, which lacks the essential equipment and medicines to address them. . .

“Moving into 2019, humanitarian agencies in DPRK [North Korea] need $120 million to provide assistance to 3.8 million people. This is a relatively small amount of money compared to the global humanitarian need, but will have a huge impact on ordinary people’s lives.”

Food production in North Korea dropped by almost ten per cent between 2017 and 2018; recurrent natural disasters are believed to have contributed to this.

Mr Mishra writes: “Due to reduced crop production, as well as the impact of the floods and heatwave, food insecurity will increase in 2019, particularly among the most vulnerable.”

The situation in the country is exacerbated because “funding for humanitarian operations has also declined significantly over the last five years,” the report says.

“UN agencies and INGOs through the 2018 Needs and Priorities Document appealed for US$111 million to meet the critical life-saving needs of six million of the most vulnerable people. The appeal was only 24-per-cent funded: one of the lowest funding levels in ten years and one of the lowest-funded appeals in the world. The low level of funding is impacting operations.

“Facing the above-mentioned challenges, agencies have been forced to scale back essential programming, thus seriously compromising the delivery of basic humanitarian interventions that are crucial to safeguarding the lives of the most vulnerable. However, further cuts to programming could roll back access gains and exacerbate the already dire humanitarian needs faced by the most vulnerable people in the country.”

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