Beijing/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 21 December 2018 – Despite a recent diplomatic thawing, the humanitarian situation in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) remains one of the world’s most chronic and forgotten crises, with UN sanctions having unintended consequences for already vulnerable people.

An estimated 10.3 million people suffer from food insecurity, under-nutrition and a lack of access to basic services. Recurrent natural hazards – in 2018 a heatwave, a dry spell, a typhoon, floods and landslides – exacerbated and created new humanitarian needs. As a result, people have crucial and unmet nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene and health needs. Infant and maternal mortality rates are well above global averages, especially in rural areas.

DPRK Red Cross Secretary General Ri Ho Rim said:

“The health situation is extremely worrying. The impact of sanctions on basic medicines is severe. For example, the lack of vaccines, antiviral medicines, rapid testing kits, personal protective equipment for health workers and hand sanitizer were major factors in an influenza outbreak earlier this year.”

Sanctions imposed on DPRK are not intended to restrict humanitarian activities or to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population. Yet in practice delays occur due to the perception of banks, suppliers and officials that they risk violating the sanctions. These delays have a serious impact on already vulnerable people.

Richard Blewitt, Head of Delegation and Permanent Observer at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Delegation at the UN Office said:

“The delays due to sanctions are especially worrying as the overall humanitarian situation in the country calls for more assistance, not less. The sanctions continue to affect the capacity of agencies like the Red Cross to bring in supplies and scale up our response. The humanitarian consequences are decreased support, increased need and restrictions on the provision of life-saving materials. We welcome all measures to facilitate and speed up the work of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations in the DPRK.”

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In Beijing: Maude Froberg, +86 139 1009 6892, maude.froberg@ifrc.org
In Kuala Lumpur: Rosemarie North, +60 122 308 451, rosemarie.north@ifrc.org @RosemarieNorth
In Geneva: Alison Freebairn, +41 79 251 9333, alison.freebairn@ifrc.org