New York, Apr 30 (IBNS) Five United Nations agencies have issued an urgent appeal for $29.4 million to meet the most critical health and nutrition needs of the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the rest of this year.
"Despite a slight improvement of the overall humanitarian situation over the last 12 months, the structural causes of people's vulnerability persist," the agencies said in a news release.
"External assistance continues to play a vital role in safeguarding and promoting the well-being of millions whose food security, nutritional status and general health would otherwise be seriously compromised."
The agencies in the DPRK - the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) - remain seriously underfunded.
They have so far only received some 27 per cent of the $147 million needed this year to respond to key humanitarian priorities. As a result of the persisting deficit, agencies are unable to respond effectively to the humanitarian needs in the country, they say.
"The dire funding situation leaves the UN agencies and other humanitarian actors concerned about the continuation of their programmes in DPRK," said the news release.
Last month, UN Resident Coordinator in the DPRK, Desiree Jongsma, warned that while timely imports of food and provisions of agricultural inputs have contributed to avoiding a food crisis this year, the majority of the population - some 16 million people - remain chronically food insecure. Of those 16 million, 2.8 million need regular nutrition assistance.
Malnutrition rates are of great concern as, according to the 2012 national nutrition survey, nearly 28 per cent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and 4 per cent are acutely malnourished.
Ms. Jongsma noted that the health care services and supplies are unable to meet the population's basic needs, and infrastructure such as water and heating systems need repair. Educational facilities are also rapidly deteriorating.