• Crisis Severity ?
    3.8
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    4.0
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    4.5
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    2.6
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    3.0
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 25,666,000 Total population [?]
  • 25,666,000 People affected [?]
  • 10,429,000 People in Need [?]

Overview

05/03/2021

The humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is driven by political and economic factors as well as natural hazards. Chronic food insecurity and limited access to basic services, such as healthcare and clean water, have left more than 10 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Information gaps on the general situation within the country and limited humanitarian access make it difficult to carry out regular assessments of humanitarian needs and key priorities.?

Poor economic governance and repressive internal political measures have negatively impacted the country’s population. In January 2021, Kim Jong-un declared that the country’s five-year economic plan had failed to meet targets in almost all sectors, and in the future the DPRK is expected to reduce its reliance on imports and instead increase reliance on internal production. Restrictions on movement and limited access to goods and services, including humanitarian aid, have gradually increased humanitarian needs. Despite exemptions for humanitarian aid, international sanctions have resulted in shortages of humanitarian funding, supplies, and personnel, delaying project implementation.?

The DPRK is regularly affected by heavy seasonal rains, flooding, typhoons, and other natural disasters. In August and September 2020, it experienced one of its wettest periods since 1981 resulting from extensive rainfall and three typhoons. The main agricultural producing area – the south – was severely affected by flooding, which disrupted the harvesting season and resulted in the depletion of reserve grains. In September 2019, Tropical Cyclone Lingling destroyed farmlands in North and South Hwanghae and South Hamgyong provinces – the same areas that were later affected by the 2020 flooding. The impact of natural hazards contributes to high food insecurity in the country, which is expected to have increased in 2020 because of both natural hazards and gaps in economic governance.?

INFORM considers the DPRK to be at a high risk of humanitarian crisis, with a score of 5.4/10. Lack of coping capacity is the biggest concern, with a score of 6.3/10.?

Latest Developments

26/08/2021

No significant recent humanitarian developments. This crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.

Humanitarian Access

21/07/2021

 high constraints

Humanitarian access and access to basic public services remain limited and highly regulated by national authorities. Access to employment, education, medical facilities, and travel is based on songbun – a sociopolitical classification system that gives preference to North Koreans labelled ‘loyal’ by the Government. Internationally imposed economic sanctions continue to restrict the import of humanitarian goods, complicating the funding of humanitarian projects. Humanitarian access continues to be affected by the lack of freedom of movement and damage to infrastructure caused by previous seasonal floods. Governmental COVID-19 containment measures have severely restricted internal travel and border trade with China, resulting in a lack of basic items and increased prices. These circumstances prompted most foreign diplomats, INGO staff, and all UN personnel to leave the country by April 2021. Restricted access to information does not allow for a comprehensive assessment of the humanitarian and access situation in the country, but increased food insecurity is a sure impact. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has formally acknowledged that DPRK is facing economic hardship and food shortages.

Read more in the latest ACAPS Humanitarian Access Overview.

Key Priorities

12/03/2021

Food: 10.1 million people (39% of the total population) are food insecure and 140,000 children under five suffer from acute malnutrition because of insufficient agricultural production, inability to access a variety of food, and recurrent natural disasters. Lack of recent data makes it difficult to assess the conditions of those who are food insecure.?

Health: 8.7 million people lack access to adequate health facilities. There is a particular lack of equipment, medicines, and specialist staff to address the needs of children under five, pregnant women, people with communicable diseases, and people living with disabilities.?

WASH: 8.4 million people lack access to safe water sources. Basic sanitation facilities are a high priority – especially in rural areas, where nine out of ten people lack facilities for the safe disposal of human waste.?

Protection: Forced labour, torture, disappearances, and arbitrary arrests are often reported across the country. Women are at risk of being trafficked into neighbouring countries for forced marriage and sexual or labour exploitation.?

COVID-19

07/07/2021

The DPRK closed its borders with China and Russia to stop the spread of COVID-19. Trade with China – a major partner –is reduced by 80%. Strict COVID-19 containment measures persist within the country. These include movement restrictions, two-metre buffer zones at the border, quarantines for both movement within the country and for cargo entering the country, and shoot-to-kill orders for anyone attempting to enter the country. The strict containment measures issued by the DPRK are expected to have long-term consequences on the economy as trade, imports/exports, and livelihood opportunities have been disrupted. A reliance on domestic products has resulted in the depletion of food sources and higher levels of food insecurity. ? 

The delivery of 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX has been delayed since May because DPRK has not accepted COVAX’s vaccination monitoring requirements. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been no COVID-19 cases confirmed by the Government.?

The ACAPS team is monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information related to the outbreak, see the ACAPS COVID-19 project.