The United Nations today said $98 million is urgently needed to address critical humanitarian needs in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), where some 2.4 million people need regular food assistance.
“While the overall humanitarian situation has improved slightly over the last 12 months, the structural causes of people’s vulnerability persist,” said UN Resident Coordinator Ghulam Isaczai.
“External assistance continues to play a vital role in safeguarding the lives of millions whose food security, nutritional status and essential health needs would otherwise be seriously compromised.”
The funds would be used for food and agricultural support, health and nutrition services, and water and sanitation interventions for the remainder of the year, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a news release.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the appeal, calling on prospective donors to respond to this serious situation and separate their humanitarian assistance from political or security considerations.
“The lives of many people are at stake, including children who are vulnerable to lasting suffering if they do not receive aid,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
“In that regard, the Secretary-General appreciates the recent decision of the Government of the Republic of Korea to provide humanitarian aid to the DPRK through UNICEF [UN Children’s Fund]. He hopes this move will inspire other traditional and potential donors to follow suit.”
Lack of agricultural inputs remains the main challenge for food production in the country, according to the Resident Coordinator. During the 2012-13 marketing year, the cereal deficit was about 507,000 metric tonnes, with serious gaps remaining between recommended and actual nutrient intake, due to a lack of dietary diversity.
“Without sustained humanitarian support, the gains made in the past 10 years in improving food security and the overall health and nutrition of the most vulnerable – children, pregnant and nursing’ mothers, and the elderly – could be quickly reversed,” Mr. Isaczai said.
Some 16 million people currently remain chronically food insecure and highly vulnerable to food production gaps. Despite this being the narrowest gap in many years, malnutrition rates continue to be of great concern with a stunting rate among children under five at 27.9 per cent and 4 per cent who are acutely malnourished, according to the 2012 National Nutrition Survey.
“We hope that donors will respond quickly and generously to allow UN agencies to address the humanitarian situation,” Mr. Isaczai said, noting that humanitarian programmes in DPRK are drastically underfunded. “Separating humanitarian needs from political issues is a prerequisite for a sustainable improvement in the condition of people.”