October, 2011, DPRK: Children at the WFP, UNICEF-supported Provincial Baby Home in Hamhung City, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Humanitarian agencies have warned that a lack of funding is limiting their ability to meet the most pressing needs of people in DPRK. Photo: David Ohana/OCHA
Humanitarian agencies in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have warned that a lack of funding is limiting their ability to meet the most pressing needs of people and communities. Over the past decade the UN and its partners have seen a dramatic reduction in donor support to one of the world's most protracted humanitarian emergencies.
The humanitarian community in DPRK has consistently argued that the provision of support should be based on humanitarian needs and not on political and security considerations, and that millions of people will continue to suffer without international assistance.
In 2011, in response to shrinking donations, the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) produced an Overview Funding Document
that outlined humanitarian issues in DPRK and addressed donor concerns regarding the ability of humanitarian agencies and their partners to deliver assistance effectively. Initial levels of support were encouraging, with US$74.6 million and $76 million provided in 2011 and 2012 respectively, by 22 countries.
For 2013, the UNCT has called for $147 million to address humanitarian needs, but so far this year only $25.4 million (17.3 per cent) has been provided, including $7 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Adding to concerns about this decline, several governments have recently indicated that DPRK is no longer viewed as a priority for humanitarian and development aid.
Some improvements, but assistance remains vital
A better harvest in 2012 led to an improvement in the overall food security situation in the DPRK. However, high levels of stunting and insufficient diversity in children’s diets remain serious concerns.
Chronic under-nutrition continues to be a public health problem, and is a major underlying cause of maternal and child mortality. A lack of medical supplies and equipment means the health care system is unable to meet basic needs, while water and heating infrastructure is in need of repair.
Humanitarian agencies have expressed concern that the lack of funding will limit their capacity to provide vaccines for diseases such as measles, hepatitis B and polio, and essential medicines and supplies including paracetamol, syringes, gauze and cotton wool.
This in turn could lead to the reversal of key gains made over the past decade in controlling diseases and in reducing maternal and infant mortality. Between 2000 and 2010, DPRK’s maternal mortality rate dropped from an estimated 120 deaths per 100,000 live births to 81. The procurement of therapeutic foods intended to treat severe acute malnutrition, including micronutrient supplements for women and children, which are essential due to the low consumption of meat, milk, vegetables and fruits, will also be affected, as will the procurement of pipes and fittings needed to improve access to safe water.
Agency representatives stress that, according to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, aid must never be contingent on political developments. They add that if humanitarian aid is to make a sustainable improvement in the condition of the most vulnerable people of DPRK, it must be considered separately from political issues.