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Donors urged to continue supporting life-saving programmes during sanctions

UNICEF Image: DRP Korea: Continued aid during sanctions
© UNICEF DPRK/2006/Kim
This child lives in a 'baby home', a residential centre in DPR Korea for orphans up to four years old.

By Rachel Bonham Carter

NEW YORK, USA, 20 October 2006 – UNICEF is urging donors to continue their support of life-saving programmes in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea while UN sanctions are imposed on the country.

“UNICEF has the largest presence of any UN agency in DPR Korea,” explained UNICEF Representative Gopalan Balagopal. “We are performing very important operations for women and children, which depend heavily on donor support.”

UNICEF is active in six out of nine provinces in DPR Korea, with programmes focusing on nutrition, health and education – as well as joint efforts with the World Food Programme, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other partners to supply nutrition, clean water and sanitation.

Due to sustained UNICEF-supported efforts, more than 93 per cent of children who were targeted for immunization have been reached. In addition to delivering vaccines and vitamin supplements to women and children, UNICEF is providing a range of essential drugs to hospitals. According to Mr. Balagopal, this aid is especially important because hospitals are operating on very tight budgets.

Nutritional support is critical

Mr. Balagopal says UNICEF's main concern is that women and children receive adequate nutrition. While nutritional programmes have treated 68 per cent of severely malnourished children nationwide, approximately one third of mothers in DPR Korea are still malnourished – a rate that has not improved since 2002. Evidence of crop damage and an expected shortfall in food-grain availability may make matters even worse, he notes.

UNICEF Image: DRP Korea: Continued aid during sanctions
© UNICEF DPRK/2006/Kim
A mother and child at home in Jong Pyong County. Their community has benefited from a UNICEF-supported water supply system.

Support from the World Food Programme was scaled down last year, and severe flooding this summer is expected to have a detrimental impact on future grain supplies. Mr. Balagopal warns that any further curtailing of humanitarian assistance could be disastrous.

“Our anxiety is that if the sanctions result in any scaling down or holding back of support, we will be critically handicapped,” he says.

Avoiding negative effects on children

The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on DPR Korea on 14 October in response to the government’s reports that it had carried out a nuclear test.

As a member of the UN family, UNICEF recognizes that sanctions are an instrument used by the international community to promote peace and security. At the same time, UNICEF believes that whenever sanctions are imposed, they should be designed and implemented to avoid negative effects on children, with constant monitoring to gauge their humanitarian impact.

“We urge donors to continue the very generous support that we have been receiving from them,” says Mr. Balagopal.


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19 October 2006:
UNICEF Representative in DPR Korea Gopalan Balagopal describes the importance of continued donor support.
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