Pyongyang/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 24 February 2020The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Socieities (IFRC) has been granted an exemption to United Nations sanctions, imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 (2006) and subsequent resolutions, allowing for the provision of life-saving support to protect people from the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

The potential for an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea poses a threat to millions of people who are already in need of humanitarian assistance.

Xavier Castellanos, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Regional Director said: “We know that there is urgent need of personal protective gear and testing kits, items vital to prepare for a possible outbreak. This exemption is a life-saving intervention and an important measure to ensure that sanctions do not bear a negative impact on the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

On 11 February, IFRC launched a 32 million Swiss franc global emergency appeal to support National Societies with community-based health activities, access to basic services, and the management of misinformation and stigma.

“We are grateful for the speed and urgent attention given by the United Nations Sanctions Committee to our request and that, as a result of this exemption, the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be granted humanitarian assistance,” Castellanos added.

IFRC has had a permanent presence in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since 1995, supporting the humanitarian work of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is one of the only organizations with access to communities across the whole country. The Red Cross has sent volunteers to support the Ministry of Public Health, working closely with healthcare providers to support COVID-19 screening and to promote effective hygiene practices. They are coordinating with local health staff and government departments to engage with communities and visit remote households that are hard to reach.

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Media contacts

In Kuala Lumpur: Jess Timings, +60 17 786 5609, surge.aprocomms@ifrc.org

In Geneva: Laura Ngo-Fontaine, +41 79 570 4418, laura.ngofontaine@ifrc.org