An estimated 10.9 million people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are affected by chronic food insecurity and lack of access to life-saving basic services, such as health care and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities.1 The drought and flooding that affected the country in 2018 will further exacerbate food insecurity in 2019. While survey data has shown a significant drop in stunting, from 28 per cent in 20122 to 19 per cent in 2017,3 one in every five children under 5 years is stunted and 3 per cent of children under 5 years are suffering from acute malnutrition.4 Increasingly stringent restrictions on UNICEF and partners, including scrutiny of in-country expenditures and requests by transit countries for sanction-related import waivers, are leading to considerable delays in the importation of life-saving relief items and have increased the costs of protracted storage arrangements. In addition, banking channels remain suspended. These factors have compounded the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in which the delivery of basic humanitarian interventions crucial to safeguarding the lives of children and women is already seriously compromised. Life-saving tuberculosis medicines, for example, are expected to run out by mid-2019.5
As the lead of the nutrition and WASH sector working groups and co-lead of health with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF is at the forefront of humanitarian response in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. To sustain the delivery of life-saving interventions, UNICEF will continue to work with partners to apply its three-pronged strategic approach of building the capacities of local service providers and caregivers; strengthening the timely and effective delivery of essential health, nutrition and WASH interventions, especially for children under 5 years and pregnant and lactating women; and providing basic and essential humanitarian supplies in line with global standards. UNICEF will also continue to apply an integrated approach to health, nutrition, WASH and social inclusion programming that will contribute to reducing maternal and under-five mortality, promoting early childhood development, addressing undernutrition among women and girls and facilitating equitable access to basic WASH services. Specific health and nutrition interventions will be developed to build community resilience in these areas.
Results from 2018
As of 31 October 2018, UNICEF had US$5.2 million available against the US$16.5 million appeal (31 per cent funded).6 Achievements in routine immunization were made possible by utilizing other sources of funding to reach more than 243,000 children under 1 year with measles vaccination. Savings in freight and health kits costs allowed additional procurement to extend coverage with essential medicines to some 2.9 million people. More than 1.5 million children received vitamin A supplementation, nearly 506,000 children under 5 years received multiple micronutrient powder and over 28,000 pregnant women received multiple micronutrient tablets for six months. Nationwide, 90 per cent of children under 5 years were screened for malnutrition during child health days and identified cases were treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). Despite these achievements, due to the United Nations Security Council sanctions, the implementation of some nutrition interventions and procurement of essential health equipment were challenged. Delays in clearing sanctioned items is hindering the timely completion of four gravity-fed systems meant to provide safe drinking water to over 61,000 people. Funding constraints also resulted in 95 per cent of pregnant and lactating women not being reached with micronutrient supplements during child health days.