UNICEF calls for aid to most affected by DPRK floods
PYONGYANG, 17 August 2007 - UNICEF today highlighted the plight of children affected by massive flooding across the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, saying international aid will be needed to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable.
Over 350,000 people have had their houses destroyed or damaged, with 221 dead. The numbers of child casualties are still not known, but they are likely affected as some were taken by floodwaters and drowned. A UN assessment mission to affected counties on 14 August – and further visits by other organizations – have confirmed the serious situation being reported by the Government.
“The country has been isolated and has been struggling to provide basic services for many years,” said Michel Le Pechoux, UNICEF’s Deputy Representative to DPRK who was on Tuesday’s assessment mission. “In addition to the loss of life, the damage caused by floods to agriculture and infrastructure is really a big blow to the already precarious situation for most of the population. I believe this is why the government is welcoming assistance from international agencies.”
According to government officials, these rains were the worst in 40 years to hit the affected counties. More rain is forecast in the coming days. Flooding has immediately left tens of thousands homeless, contaminated water sources and left a precarious food situation. Damage to infrastructure ranges from public buildings including schools and health facilities, washed away or seriously damaged to destroyed roads, railways and bridges and downed telephone poles.
Beyond the immediately affected population, an initial estimate of 100,000 hectares have been destroyed or seriously damaged, risking food insecurity and child malnutrition. Some people have started to harvest maize before it ripens to avoid rotting.
"The biggest concern is the damage caused to the crops and to infrastructure,” Le Pechoux said. “In many areas, the floods have destroyed not only entire harvests, but also roads and bridges. In Pyongyang, electricity is unreliable with power surges and frequent cuts. From what I saw, the floods are seriously affecting the lives of women and children. In a country with existing food insecurity, the agricultural damage caused by the floods is a great concern for food security of thousands over the next months."
UNICEF has already responded by providing DPRK with pre-positioned supplies of essential medicines for waterborne diseases; water kits for some 5,000 families; and ordering water purification tablets and chlorine to disinfect water systems. Classes are on break, but UNICEF is also working with the Ministry of Education to support the resumption of the upcoming school year in the affected areas.
“Over the years the population has developed considerable coping mechanisms to face many hardships. In many areas the population and local authorities have already started working on the rehabilitation of infrastructure with very limited means,” Le Pechoux said. “But for a country already suffering from a fragile situation, the impact of the floods on the situation of children and women is really worrying.”
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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