Map of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
UNICEF photo © UNICEF DPRK/Olga Basurmanova, Nov 2014

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

UNICEF is requesting US$18 million to meet the humanitarian needs of children in DPRK in 2015.

In 2015, UNICEF and partners plan for:

children aged 0 to 59 months affected by SAM who are admitted for treatment


children under 12-months and 365,000 pregnant women immunized with Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) vaccines


children access schools with improved education infrastructure, including water and sanitation facilities

2015 Requirements: US$18,000,000

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Total affected population: 11 million
Total affected children: 6 million

Total people to be reached in 2015: 5.8 million
Total children to be reached in 2015: 2 million

In the programming context in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), structural causes of vulnerability remained unchanged; life-saving humanitarian assistance continues to be a critical need across areas of nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and education – particularly in the north-eastern provinces and remote counties. Support is critically needed to address the underlying drivers of vulnerability. According to the 2012 National Nutrition Survey, 28 per cent and 4 per cent of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting) and acute malnutrition (wasting), respectively. Chronic and acute undernutrition is a public health problem and is among the major contributors to maternal and child mortality in DPRK. Without adequate sanitation and dietary intake of the necessary macro and micronutrients, children will continue to face stunting and wasting and will suffer delayed growth and developmental challenges. Among other challenges in education, the dilapidation of learning infrastructure compromises sanitation in schools, exposing up to 6 million school-age children to health risks. Lack of quality teaching/learning materials is a major issue in education. In 2014, the impact of sanctions worsened; remittances dried up for the better part of 2014 until September, disrupting the implementation of activities. Rainfall data released at the peak of the rainy season (July) indicated that many parts of the country received less rainfall than the average for the last three years. The drought conditions affected food production, generation of hydro-electricity, and in some areas disrupted water supply services, increasing health risks among children and women. The cereal shortfall for 2014/2015 is in excess of 891,500 metric tonnes. External assistance continues to play a vital role in safeguarding and promoting the well-being of children and families whose food security, nutritional status and general health would otherwise be seriously compromised.

Humanitarian strategy

2015 Programme Targets


  • 4.9 million people (including pre-pregnant, pregnant, lactating women and children aged 6 to 24 months) receive micronutrient supplementation
  • 13,000 children aged 0 to 59 months affected by SAM who are admitted for treatment


  • 362,156 children under 12-months and 365,000 pregnant women immunized with Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) vaccines
  • 1,427,000 children aged 12 to 59 months dewormed twice in the year
  • 1,605,000 children aged 6 to 59 months receive two doses of vitamin-A


  • 200,000 people including school children access water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene
  • 2,000,000 people with appropriate hygiene practices


  • 5,000 children access schools with improved education infrastructure, including water and sanitation facilities
  • 20,000 children benefit from the early learning kits and caregiver training provided to kindergartens

In 2015, UNICEF will continue to collaborate with partners to provide multi-sector support to the Government to sustain critical national interventions, focusing on vulnerable communities and institutions, particularly in the most vulnerable and remote counties. UNICEF will replenish nutrition, health, education, and WASH pre-positioned emergency stocks for up to 100,000 people who may be affected by recurring floods. This includes prepositioning of 20 IEHKs. Since October 2014 the Government has initiated extraordinary precautions to ward off any threat of outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease. This could have serious impact on programming in the New Year, thereby placing further restrictions on external support for monitoring of activities.

UNICEF will also continue its coordination role in the nutrition, WASH and education ‘thematic groups’ within the United Nations Strategic Framework. Critical programmes include immunization, deworming, the provision of essential life-saving drugs, the promotion of breastfeeding and timely introduction of adequate complementary feeding, maternal and neonatal health, promotion of hygiene and improved sanitation in learning environments and households, and safe drinking water. The two major killers of children in DPRK are pneumonia (14 per cent) and diarrhoea (5 per cent)1; survivors of those killers are already susceptible to undernutrition, affecting one-third of children. Conversely, undernutrition as an underlying factor increases risk of illnesses and death from diarrhoea, pneumonia and other diseases. UNICEF will continue working to address the immediate and underlying causes of undernutrition in DPRK to promote child survival and to break the intergenerational cycle through expanding curative and preventive interventions for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) to reach all counties (409) country-wide in all 10 provinces.

Results from 2014

With some 31 per cent (US$6,284,463) of the total appeal (US$20,332,675) available as of mid-November 2014, UNICEF was able to see some concrete programme results. However, the budget shortfall meant that many children could not be provided support to meet the needs of the most vulnerable identified. In nutrition, Community Management of Acute Malnutrition services were delivered in 1,000 service delivery sites in 29 counties in four north-eastern provinces (with the highest burden of SAM cases), as well as in 14 baby-homes and 29 county hospitals and 11 provincial paediatric hospitals (countrywide). Some 16,000 SAM-affected children were treated, representing about 70 per cent of the annual case load; 1.6 million (76 per cent) pre-pregnant women (Child Bearing-age Women) received three month rations of iron-folate (UNICEF used other resources to achieve these targets), while only 269,000 (45 per cent) pregnant and lactating women received three month rations of multiple micronutrient tablets and 156,000 (30 per cent) infants aged 6 to 24 months received multiple micronutrient powder because of funding constraints. In health, the current national vaccination coverage remains above 98 per cent across the country and needs sustained efforts. In May, UNICEF supported the national Child Health Day (CHD), which reached above 98 per cent of children (1.6 million) with vitamin-A supplementation (children aged 6 to 59 months) and deworming (children aged 24 to 59 months). The next CHD for 2014 is planned on 20 November with special focus on pneumonia prevention and treatment. UNICEF continued to support the provision of essential and life-saving medicines, particularly for the treatment of diarrhoea and pneumonia, among children across six provinces.

In the WASH sector, approximately 254,000 people (about 1 per cent of the national population) gained access to safe water through seven gravity-fed water supply systems in three provinces: Kangwon (Sepo and Ichon Counties), North Pyongan (Unjon County) and South Hamgyong (Sudong and Kumya Counties). Other programme resources were used to provide supplies. Old water schemes with dysfunctional infrastructure increased the gap to meet the needs in water supply for an estimated 20 per cent of the population. The main causes for non-functionality of water schemes were lack of electricity (49 per cent) or condition of pumping equipment (25 per cent). The gravity-fed water supply systems (GFS) model has proven to be highly popular, successful and sustainable in DPRK and is ready for countrywide replication. UNICEF also procured WASH emergency kits for 100,000 people which were prepositioned at the Ministry of City Management warehouses. With reduced rainfall, there were no flood emergencies responded to during 2014.

There was no humanitarian funding for education in 2014. However, with its regular development resources UNICEF supported the rehabilitation of 10 educational institutions as per Child Friendly School (CFS) guidelines, benefitting over 4,112 children.

Funding requirements

In line with the country’s strategic plan for humanitarian assistance and inter-agency contingency plan for responding to emergencies, UNICEF is requesting US$18 million to cover the funding gap for humanitarian needs of children in DPRK in 2015. Apart from preventing child mortality due to pneumonia and diarrhoea, there is a critical need to address the immediate and underlying causes of undernutrition in order to promote child survival and development. Central to this effort will be to break the intergenerational cycle of under nutrition in DPRK by scaling up specific nutrition interventions related to promotion of IYCF counselling, care and practices, and expansion of CMAM services to reach all counties’ hospitals. Without additional funding, UNICEF will be unable to support the national response to the country’s continuing silent undernutrition emergency and to provide critical health, WASH and education services to the most vulnerable children and women in DPRK. At present, a new channel for disbursement of funds has been identified and is currently operational to all UN agencies.

1 UN Interagency Estimates, Trends in Child Mortality, September 2013 Report