UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock is in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to see first-hand the extent of the humanitarian needs, the support the United Nations is providing, and to gauge need for further support.
With 10.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and chronic malnutrition affecting 20 per cent of children, ERC Lowcock called on donors to step up funding as the 2018 Needs and Priorities Plan that humanitarian partners launched last 12 April remains close to 90 percent underfunded. This is particularly critical as access to people in need has drastically improved over the years, and the UN stands ready to provide much needed relief.
Unryul County People’s Hospital (supported by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA), South Hwanghae Province. Credit: OCHA/Anthony Burke
During his visit to the Unryul County People’s Hospital and at the Sinchon County People’s Hospital, in South Hwanghae Province, ERC Lowcock witnessed the difference that UN humanitarian assistance is making in the lives of the most vulnerable, including children and pregnant and lactating women. Unryul County People’s Hospital treats around 170,000 outpatients annually, while Sinchon County Hospital treats 62,000. Key gaps in providing adequate care, particularly for malnourished children and tuberculosis patients, include a lack of essential drugs and equipment.
ERC Lowcock also visited a kindergarten in Sinchon County, which had received United Nations nutrition support up to 2016. Since November 2017, UN operations had to discontinue nutrition support to kindergartens due to a shortage of funding.
With funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund, the UN has extended the operational coverage of nutrition activities to reach a total of 6,518 children and pregnant and lactating women. ERC Lowcock met with care takers and children and discussed how early screening for malnutrition in children can detect malnutrition at an early stage and allow adequate support for these children.
Access to basic health services remains a concern. Many parts of the country are not equipped with sufficient facilities, equipment, medicines or trained staff to provide quality health services. There are still disparities in access to services between rural and urban areas, demonstrated by under-five mortality rates 1.2 times higher in rural areas compared to urban areas.