Better indicators for children in DPR Korea but challenges persist, new data on the situation of children and women shows

Humanitarian assistance making a difference

20 June 2018
14th May 2018: 18 month old baby Kim Hyang Jong in Jongju City Hospital, DPR Korea, with her mother. “When she first came to the hospital she was severely malnourished and couldn’t walk or support herself,” said her doctor while sitting with the baby and her mother.
UNICEF/UN0216773/Nazer
14th May 2018: 18 month old baby Kim Hyang Jong in Jongju City Hospital, DPR Korea, with her mother. “When she first came to the hospital she was severely malnourished and couldn’t walk or support herself,” said her doctor while sitting with the baby and her mother.

GENEVA, 20 June 2018 – New data offering a snapshot into the lives of children and women in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea shows slight improvements but persistent challenges.

“Humanitarian assistance is making a difference in the lives of women and children across the country,” said Shanelle Hall, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, speaking from Pyongyang. “But we all must do more to help every girl and boy in DPRK grow to their full potential.” 

The data, released today by the Government of DPR Korea in Pyongyang, comes from a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) –  a survey methodology supported by UNICEF and used in over 100 countries around the world – that was conducted among 8,500 households in the DPR Korea in 2017, focusing on issues that directly affect the lives of children and women.

The 2017 DPR Korea MICS Survey Findings Report is launched nine years after the last MICS of 2009 and has been conducted by the Government’s Central Bureau of Statistics with technical assistance from UNICEF.

According to the report, 1 in 5 children are stunted, although the national rate of stunting – an indication of chronic or recurrent malnutrition – has dropped significantly from 28 per cent in 2012 to 19 per cent in 2017. 

The survey results also show significant differences in the nutritional status of children in different parts of the country: in the capital Pyongyang, 10 per cent of children are affected by stunting, while in Ryanggang Province some 32 per cent of children are affected. 

The survey suggests that the incidence of diarrhoea – which is often caused by contaminated water and is a leading contributor to malnutrition and death globally - affects over one in ten children. The use of oral rehydration salts to treat children suffering from diarrhoea increased from 67 per cent in 2009 to 74 per cent in 2017. 

Results also reveal that over one-third of household drinking water is contaminated. The situation is worst in rural areas, where nearly half of children are still exposed to significant risks of illness and malnourishment. Although 82 per cent of children and their families have access to at least basic sanitation services, waste treatment remains an issue. Unless excreta are safely managed and disposed of, the risk of contamination, childhood illness and malnutrition remains high. 

This new information arising from the MICS survey will help improve understanding of the situation of children and women and should allow the Government and international agencies to more accurately and effectively target life-saving assistance and humanitarian aid, according to UNICEF. Following these first results, UNICEF will continue further analysis of the data to better understand causalities between different areas.

Early indications suggest that recent efforts by the Government and agencies have helped improve the situation of children in DPR Korea. According to UNICEF, nearly 40,000 severely malnourished children received treatment and over 700,000 children and mothers were provided with multi-micronutrient supplements to improve their health in 2017. UNICEF also trained doctors and health workers to improve breastfeeding rates and maternal health. And immunization programmes supported by UNICEF and WHO have ensured that children across the country are vaccinated against life-threatening diseases.

“We look forward to finalizing a thorough analysis of the MICS data. Good data is the foundation of good humanitarian support, and that work saves lives. Our early reading of the data suggests that humanitarian efforts are working and making significant contributions in improving children’s health across the country,” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific. “However, the data also suggests that there has been less progress for children in some rural areas. Urgent action to expand support and increase access to life-saving interventions for children in rural areas is essential.”

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Notes for editors:

Data generated by the MICS methodology has been used for over two decades by governments, the UN and partners around the world to prioritise support for those most in need.  Since 1997, UNICEF has been working in DPR Korea to provide health, nutrition and WASH services for children and vulnerable populations, focusing on those most in need.

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Chris de Bono

Regional Chief of Communication

UNICEF East Asia and Pacific

Simon Nazer

Communication Specialist

UNICEF East Asia and Pacific

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