More help needed for DPRK flood survivors as winter closes in

Published: 30 September 2016

30 September, 2016. Beijing / Kuala Lumpur.  One month since devastating floods struck the northeast region of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging international donors to support ongoing relief efforts for hundreds of thousands of people in need.

The floods affected large areas of Hamgyong Province, killing hundreds and leaving 70,000 homeless. The IFRC together with the DPRK Red Cross Society has been at the forefront of relief efforts, reaching close to 30,000 people with emergency items such as tarpaulins for shelter, bedding, kitchen sets and toiletries, but more help is required.

“Urgent action is needed before the first snows fall. Last year that was in third week of October. People lack proper shelter, clothing and other basic items to stay warm and healthy through the winter”, said Chris Staines, Head of Delegation with the IFRC in DPRK.

“Much is being done by the residents themselves and civilian volunteers who have travelled to the area to help – but they are working against the clock. We are calling on the international community to put people first and recognise the pressing humanitarian needs on the ground.”

On 21 September, the IFRC launched a 15.2 million Swiss Franc emergency appeal (USD 15.5 million, Euros 13.9 million) to reach more than 330,000 people with aid. So far the appeal is only 11% covered.

IFRC delegate Patrick Elliott recently returned from Musan County and Hoeryong City where he was assessing the impact of the floods.

“In some villages the damage is extreme. We travelled for almost two hours down the Tumen River from Hoeryong City and found a village where 300 houses had been swept away when the river burst its banks. Only 100 homes remained. Access to many affected areas remains a challenge, thousands of people are working to clear and repair the roads by hand”.  

A major concern for the Red Cross is the approaching winter. Shelter remains the paramount need. Upwards of 30,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed and many survivors have been staying in public buildings or with host families. Temporary shelters are going up fast and the government is taking the lead on constructing permanent homes. On its part, the IFRC is purchasing thousands of roofing sheets which will be shipped into DPRK.

“The situation at the moment isn’t easy, but in two to three weeks it will be a different story,” said Elliott.  “It’s already chilly at night and temperatures will soon plummet to below zero. People have lost their coal supplies and are burning bits of wood in makeshift stoves to keep warm. They need a proper roof over their heads, fuel and warm clothes. The risk of a secondary disaster is very real. At a DPRK Red Cross First Aid post we visited in one village, you see increasing numbers of elderly and young coming for treatment for communicable diseases like diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Under these conditions it’s what we’d expect, but it’s a growing concern.” 

Notes for editors:

The IFRC has maintained a presence in the DPRK since 1995 where it supports the development and humanitarian programmes of the DPRK Red Cross Society.

Photographs of the impact of the floods in North Hamgyong Province are available on the IFRC’s image library here

For further information or interviews, contact:

In Pyongyang:

Chris Staines, head of delegation, IFRC

Mobile: +850 1912501149 Email: chris.staines@ifrc.org

In Kuala Lumpur:

Patrick Fuller, communications manager, Asia Pacific, IFRC

Mobile : +60 122 308 451 E-mail : patrick.fuller@ifrc.org

In Beijing:

Hler Gudjonsson, communications delegate for East Asia, IFRC

Mobile: +86 139 10096892 E-mail: hler.gudjonsson@ifrc.org

In Geneva

Benoit Carpentier, Team leader, public communications, IFRC

Mobile: +41792132413 E-mail: Benoit.Carpentier@ifrc.org  Twitter: @BenoistC

For more information – http://www.ifrc.org/asia-pacific. Follow us on Twitter @IFRCAsiaPacific

 

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil­lion people each year through its 190 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. 

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