UNICEF Appeals for Aid for North Korea

Mehr Khan, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Director, has issued an appeal for international aid to provide help to millions of women and children in North Korea.

Kahn noted that conditions in North Korea had improved somewhat thanks to previous international aid efforts. But, she continued,

However, there are still some 15 million vulnerable women and children who continue to need external assistance to survive and grow. For example, there are 70,000 children under 7 years old who need hospital-based treatment for malnutrition. The survey also showed that one-third of mothers are malnourished and anaemic.

. . .

The two major causes of child deaths in DPRK are diarrhea and pneumonia. DPRK is a highly urbanized country and, in the early 1990s, people had good access to clean drinking water and sanitation. These facilities are now rapidly breaking down and are in desperate need of overhaul and repair. This gives rise to considerable concern for children’s health.

Since early this year, there has been a dramatic drop in levels of funding available for humanitarian assistance to DPRK. The WFP is in urgent need of funding to meet its food requirements. Some contributions have been authorized recently. But there is still a likely shortfall of 250,000 tonnes of food, which will occur mid-year, and for which there is nothing in the pipeline.

Of course, some nations who came through with aid during previous requests may be rethinking their decisions since North Korea seems to place more importance on restarting its nuclear weapons program that providing food and medicine to its people. Certainly North Korea has been a humanitarian nightmare for years and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. But what possible incentive do donor nations have to underwrite North Korea’s aggressive military posture by taking over the nation’s responsibility to feed its people?


Lack of funding for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea endangering children. UNICEF, Press Release, March 11, 2003.

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