DPR Korea: clearer picture of devastation unfolding

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Kim, left, with UNICEF’s Anil. She can’t wait to go home and back to kindergarten. © UNICEF/2016/Ajwang Fatuma

By Simon Nazer, 20 September 2016

UNICEF relief teams are getting a clearer picture of the extent of the damage left behind by severe flooding in northern DPR Korea after arriving in Musan Country. “It was really shocking to see the scale of damage – it’s going to take a huge effort to help the communities recover,” said UNICEF’s Anil Pokhrel, who is part of the relief team.

Over 24,000 people are now living in the open in the County, with their homes destroyed and struggling to access food and clean water. In some areas by the river entire homes, roads and train lines have been washed away, with little sign left behind that communities once lived here.

For 6 year old Kim*, it’s a distressing time. “My kindergarten is gone. I miss going there. I miss my friends,” she said.

UNICEF is currently mobilizing critical roofing materials for health and educational buildings, like Kim’s kindergarten, to help ensure children stay healthy and can get back to school.

“There is desperate need for proper and good access to food, nutrition, clean water, health and proper sanitation facilities,” said Anil Pokhrel. “Children are already feeling the effects with health clinics reporting that twice as many children are coming compared to before the emergency.”

In a nearby clinic children were receiving plumpy-nut, provided by UNICEF, used to combat malnutrition. Staff observed an increased number of malnourished children and an increase in respiratory infections including cold, diarrhoea and indigestion. Numbers are expected to rise dramatically without support.

Access to clean water is also an urgent issue. The Musan Country pumping station has been badly damaged, affecting the water supply of around 70,000 people.

Families have been left to fetch water from nearby streams, many of which have been polluted by the floods. Without clean water, children like Kim are susceptible to diseases which can be potentially life threatening.

UNICEF has already delivered water purification tablets and water filters and is in the process of providing soap, buckets, toilet slabs, repair items to fix water supply network and pumping stations “The damage is on a much bigger scale than initially thought,” said Anil Pokhrel. “Children urgently need support to access basic services to stave off hungry and illness. Food, water and access to health services are top priorities.”

It’s a difficult time for Kim and her family but they were heartened by the support that is arriving. “I’m happy people are coming to help,” said Kim. “I hope I can be home before winter.”

*name changed