IFRC Secretary General highlights humanitarian ‘challenges and solutions’ during DPRK visit

تم النشر: 4 سبتمبر 2016 9:58 CET

By Patrick Fuller, IFRC

Following a three day visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), paid tribute to the DPRK Red Cross and their efforts to address some of the long-term humanitarian challenges facing the country.

“My visit to DPRK was both inspiring and concerning,” said Mr Sy. “There are indeed extensive humanitarian needs across the country; but I saw first-hand how the Red Cross is finding solutions to some of these challenges by helping communities to build their own resilience.”

According to the UN, 10.5 million people in DPRK are undernourished and 18 million people – 81 per cent of all households – are food insecure. This situation is compounded by the impacts of recurrent natural disasters on food security and nutrition. The country has experienced three droughts and eight severe floods in the past 15 years.

Each year, the DPRK Red Cross reaches an average of 8.5 million people, helping them prepare for and respond to disasters, and providing support in the areas of water and sanitation, health and care (including through the provision of essential medicines to health facilities across the country), and livelihoods development.


Building resilience in Unsan County

During his visit Mr. Sy visited a Red Cross community development programme in Unsan County, South Phyongan Province. Widespread deforestation, land degradation and soil erosion have increased the risks facing people living in the area which is increasingly prone to flash floods. When the county’s main river floods, at least 2,000 households are regularly affected. As well as damage caused to homes, crops and property, the flooding also contaminates local wells.

Red Cross agricultural projects ensure the community has year-round access to high value vegetables, while a tree nursery helps counteract deforestation. With financial support from the IFRC, the community has its own safe water supply facility and over 10,000 households have running water piped into their homes for the first time. Flood mitigation projects have reinforced the river banks and water level markers warn the community when the river reaches dangerous levels.

“These projects not only provide direct safeguards to the community, they ensure people have better coping mechanisms to withstand future shocks,” said Chris Staines, the Head of the IFRC’s Country Office in DPRK. “Vegetable production is boosting livelihoods and improving nutrition and the water supply project, coupled with construction of household latrines and awareness on good hygiene practises, has led to a 40 per cent reduction in waterborne diseases.”


Preparing and responding to floods

Mr. Sy visited DPRK at the invitation of the DPRK Red Cross. During his visit he discussed the humanitarian situation in the country with senior government officials, representatives from the UN, members of the diplomatic community and other organisations operating in DPRK.

His visit coincided with extensive flooding in North Hamyong Province, near the border with China. According to the UN, thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, with 44,000 people displaced.

The DPRK Red Cross has deployed Disaster Response Teams from North Hamgyong Province and Pyongyang and relief materials have been released from the Red Cross warehouse in Hamhung City. In total, more than 1,000 volunteers have been mobilized to support relief and evacuation activities with assessment teams deployed to Hoeryong City, Musan county and Yonsa county and to Chongjin city, the capital of North Hamgyong province. Rain is still falling across North Hamgyong Province and further bad weather is expected.

“A concerted and sustained effort from all parties is needed to ensure that there is the humanitarian space, access and support to help those in need," said Mr. Sy. “The IFRC remains committed to supporting the work of the DPRK Red Cross which plays a vital role in improving the welfare and maintaining the dignity of people throughout the country.” 

The IFRC has maintained a Country Office in DPRK since 1995, working in partnership with DPRK Red Cross which has a nationwide presence.