15 March 2013 – The well-being of millions of people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) still depends on external assistance, a United Nations humanitarian official said today, warning that without aid, their health and food security would be seriously compromised.
“Although the overall humanitarian situation has improved slightly over the last 12 months, the structural causes of people’s vulnerability persist,” said the UN Resident Coordinator in the country, Desiree Jongsma, in an update.
Ms. Jongsma said that while timely imports of food and provisions of agricultural inputs have contributed to avoiding a food crisis this year, the majority of the population – some 16 million people – remain chronically food insecure. Of those 16 million, 2.8 million need regular nutrition assistance.
Malnutrition rates are of great concern as, according to the 2012 national nutrition survey, nearly 28 per cent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, known as stunting, and 4 per cent are acutely malnourished. Anaemia and under-nutrition are also present in women and children and are one of the major causes of maternal and child mortality.
Ms. Jongsma noted that the health care services and supplies are unable to meet the population’s basic needs, and infrastructure such as water and heating systems need repair. Educational facilities are also rapidly deteriorating.
“Key humanitarian priorities include food and nutritional assistance, agricultural support, water, sanitation and hygiene and health interventions. But there is also a need for longer-term economic investment and development support, especially in agriculture, rural energy and in disaster risk reduction,” Ms. Jongsma said.
While UN agencies continue to assist those most vulnerable, Ms. Jongsma said they remain “seriously underfunded,” rendering them unable to address all humanitarian needs. In 2013, a total of $147 million is needed, of which only 27.8 per cent has been received so far.
“Regardless of access challenges and operational difficulties, there is no denying of the humanitarian imperative. The UN system will continue to apply the strategy of previous years upholding the principle of ‘No Access-No Assistance’, and will continue to seek wider access for humanitarian activities,” she added.