UNICEF DPR Korea Humanitarian Situation Report No. 2, January-December 2019

Situation Report
Originally published



  • Humanitarian funding requirements were under 50 per cent met in the past six years. 2019 ended on a comparatively positive result, with a 33 per cent funding gap against the total HAC requirements. Large allocations were made late in the year and will consequently support the 2020 response. However, the de facto continued strong underfunding throughout the year resulted in difficulties to provide life-saving services for children across sectors. Existing vulnerabilities were further exacerbated by Cyclone Lingling which made landfall in September 2019, displacing about 6,362 people, inundating farmlands and resulting in loss of crops and damage to buildings and water and sanitation facilities.

As of end 2019, UNICEF and partners reached:

  • 6.2 million people of whom 450,000 were children under 5 years, reached with essential medicines. In addition, 762,775 children with diarrhoea received oral rehydration salts nationwide through the IMNCI approach.

  • About 92,330 acutely malnourished children (40,867 SAM and 51,463 MAM) were referred for treatment under the inpatient and outpatient nutrition programmes.

  • Nearly 1.5 million under-five children, including 498,000 aged 6-23 months, received vitamin A supplementation with multiple micronutrient powder for their home food fortification.

  • About 135,200 people from approximately 33,800 households were provided with access to safe drinking water through construction and rehabilitation of fourteen water supply systems.

Situation in Numbers

  • 2,590,000 children in need of humanitarian assistance
  • 10,900,000 people in need (2019 DPRK Needs and Priorities)

Funding Overview and Partnerships

To help support the activities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, UNICEF is thankful for the funds received in 2019 from Canada, France, Sweden as well as through the UNICEF Global Humanitarian Thematic Fund (GHTF). Two major contributions were made to the Health sector for the first time by the Russian Federation and the Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH), an agency of the Ministry of Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea. There were also funds carried over from CERF, France and 2018 GHTF allocations. At year-end, these generous contributions lowered the funding gap to 33 per cent, the best result in the recent six years. However, major contributions were made late in December 2019 which will be utilised in 2020. Throughout most of the year, the chronic underfunding of the HAC by more than half of the requirements hampered programme implementation and increased the risk of malnutrition and inadequate access to clean water and health services, directly affecting the most vulnerable children and women.

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

2019 saw the children of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continuing to face risks from the effects of climate change and frequent natural hazards, chronic food insecurity and limited national capacity to provide life-saving basic services such as health care; nutrition; and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). On the 2020 INFORM Global Risk Index, DPRK was classified as being at high risk of humanitarian crisis, ranking 38 out of 191 countries. Despite humanitarian exemptions from economic sanctions, there were continued shortages of the financial resources and essential supplies needed to address the most pressing life-threatening circumstances.

In 2019, the inter-agency Needs and Priorities document estimated 11 million people, (43.4 per cent of the population) were undernourished. The 2019 Global Hunger Index showed improvement, with DPRK moving from 109 out of 119 countries in 2018 to 92 out of 117, but hunger levels were still classified as ‘serious’. The population – including the most vulnerable, 1.7 million children under age 5 – remains exposed to risks from inadequate emergency preparedness and response capacities in general. In addition, Tropical Cyclone Lingling hit DPRK in September 2019, causing population displacement in three provinces and damage to agricultural crops, households and WASH facilities.

The chronic and protracted humanitarian situation in DPRK has been overlooked by the rest of the world. The geopolitical situation affects humanitarian donor contributions, primarily channelled through United Nations agencies and international NGOs. DPRK has the lowest per capita aid in the region, despite being the last country classified in the low-income group. Humanitarian funding requirements for children – focusing on essential needs – were less than 50 per cent fulfilled over the past six years.

These factors have compounded the situation in which the delivery of basic humanitarian interventions crucial to safeguarding the lives of children and women continue to be seriously compromised.