The United Nations has warned that international sanctions against North Korea are taking a serious toll on humanitarian aid activities in the country, where millions of women and children are reliant on donations.
A report recently released by Tapan Mishra, the UN’s senior resident official in Pyongyang say the bans slapped on the North over its nuclear and missile activities are causing a “radical decline” in donations among the needy in the Asian state.
Such donations, the report said, are badly needed by “18 million people, or 70 percent of the population, including 1.3 million children under five.”
North Korea has been the target of a broad array of tough sanctions by the US and the UN Security Council among other states and international institutions over its nuclear and missile tests.
Pyongyang, however, says its missile and nuclear program are part of its self-defense measures aimed at protecting the North’s sovereignty and safety in the face of threats by the US and South Korea.
Mishra, who coordinates UN development program and other activities in the country, further said North Korea is in the midst of “a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation largely forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the world.”
The report read that “chronic food insecurity, early childhood malnutrition and nutrition insecurity” continue to be widespread in North Korea.
It added that the sanctions also have a psychological impact on the donors, making them reluctant to provide funds for projects in the country.
Residents receive emergency goods, including kitchen sets and blankets, distributed by North Korean Red Cross officials in Pyongyang Province. (File Photo by AP)
“This is reflected in the radical decline in donor funding since 2012,” it said. “As a result, agencies have been forced to significantly reduce the assistance they provide … critical needs of some of the most vulnerable have not been met. More predictable funding is urgently required.”
Forty-one percent of the population in North Korea or two in five people are undernourished, while 70 percent depend on the Public Distribution System (PDS) for rations, according to the report.
With international sanctions in effect, health service delivery remains inadequate with many areas not equipped with sufficient facilities, equipment or medicines to meet people’s basic health needs, it added.
On Monday, Reuters quoted a US official as saying that Washington is considering more sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures to counter what is called North Korea’s nuclear and missile “threat.”
Reacting to the report, a senior North Korean diplomat at the UN censured the existing restrictive measures against North Korea as “heinous and inhumane,” but reassured that his country has no fear of tighter US bans and is determined to pursue the “acceleration” of its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea is irked by the joint wargames held annually by the US and South Korea on the volatile Korean Peninsula, saying the drills are practices for a war on the country.
Recently, Washington has further angered Pyongyang by starting the installation of an advanced missile system at an air base in South Korea.