DPRK faces a complex humanitarian crisis driven by political and economic factors, including poor governance, repressive political measures, and isolation from the internaitonal community. This compounds the effect of recurrent natural disasters, particularly floods or drought - the most recent of which was drought in 2017 which continues to impact on needs.
Sanctions are a key factor driving the humanitarian crisis. DPRK's long-standing ambitions to develop and own nuclear weapons have led to the imposition of several rounds of economic sanctions, which although aimed at coercing North Korea towards cooperation, also impact on the local population's wellbeing and humanitarian needs. Sanctions significantly reduce foreign investment and make the delivery of humanitarian aid more difficult by disrupting banking channels aid groups rely on to access funds, causing long delays, or cancellation of key projects.?
Access to affected people in DPRK is severely limited. Humanitarian agencies do not have the ability to access communities freely, conduct assessments, or run monitoring and evaluation processes. All movements in DPRK require official permission, both for aid agencies and DPRK nationals.?
Domestic restrictions on travelling and communication inside and outside of the country tightened in 2017. Borders are heavily guarded by military personnel, CCTV cameras, and barbed wire, and people attempting to cross face severe protection issues when captured. Travel must be planned in advance and in detail. Movement within the country is hampered by the poor quality of road infrastructure outside Pyongyang.?
food security and livelihoods
The food security situation in the country is fragile and subject to deterioration in case of shocks. Although state services provide food assistance through the PDS, distributions are reported to be discriminatory and irregular.? Recurrent floods and droughts exacerbate existing vulnerabilities.? International agencies face difficulties in accessing and delivering food aid due to sanctions.?
Food availability in DPRK is very limited, as agricultural production is not sufficient to feed the population. Over-cultivation, a scarcity of quality fertilisers and pesticides, low mechanisation, and low levels of irrigation contribute to low agricultural output.? The rations provided by the government's Public Distribution System (PDS) are an important source of food availability for around 70% of the population, however they do not meet dietary requirements. Overall, around 10.3 million people are undernourished.?
Despite the universal health coverage provided by DPRK, the quality of health services is inadequate, with a lack of essential medical equipment, limited professional capacity of health care providers, and a poor health infrastructure.? Diarrhoea related to poor sanitation and malnutrition remains a leading cause of death among young children. Maternal mortality is 50% higher in rural areas than in urban areas, due to inadequate transport and supplies.?
Widespread human rights violations against citizens, including abductions, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, extrajudicial executions, and forced labour are reported in DPRK. Persons who are considered by the authorities to be 'hostile' are discriminated against, and have worse access to employment, shelter, and education.? Women face a range of sexual or gender-based abuses, including rape and other sexual abuses in detention facilities, sexual exploitation, or forced marriages. Other violations include punishment for acts of their husbands or other relatives and torture in detention facilities.?At least four political prison camps that detain between 80,000 and 120,000 people are known to be operational.?