UN emergency fund allocates $8m to assist vulnerable women and children in DPR Korea

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has released eight million dollars from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for severely underfunded aid operations in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), to enable life-saving assistance for more than 2.2 million people most vulnerable and at risk of malnutrition.

The DPRK was one of nine countries to receive such grants within the overall $100 million allocation to underfunded emergencies.

“The commitment and support of the international community is vital. Protracted and serious needs must be addressed” said United Nations Resident Coordinator for the DPRK, Mr. Tapan Mishra, in a press release.

“Humanitarian needs must be kept separate from political issues to ensure minimum living conditions for the most vulnerable people,” he added.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), under nutrition is a fundamental cause of maternal and child death and disease. In DPRK, chronic malnutrition or stunting among children less than five years of age is at 27.9 per cent, while four per cent of children under-five are acutely malnourished, or wasting. Around 70 per cent of the population-18 million people-are considered food insecure.

In addition, food production in the country is hampered by a lack of agricultural inputs and is highly vulnerable to shocks, particularly natural disasters. Due to drought in 2015, 11 per cent of the main harvest was lost.

Meanwhile, health service delivery, including reproductive health, remains inadequate, with many areas of the country not equipped with the facilities, equipment or medicines to meet people’s basic health needs. Children under five and low-birth-weight newborns are vulnerable to life-threatening diseases, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea if they do not receive proper treatment or basic food, vitamins and micronutrients.

OCHA underlined that CERF funds will be used to sustain critical life-saving interventions aimed at improving the nutrition situation in the country through reduction of maternal and under-five child mortality and morbidity. More than 2.2 million people are expected to benefit from assistance provided by the funds, including 1.8 million children under five and 350,000 pregnant and lactating women. The United Nations also stressed it will continue to work towards addressing the structural causes of vulnerabilities and chronic malnutrition through its interventions agreed with the DPRK Government.