Crisis Severity The severity score from 1 to 5 is based on 31 indicators aggregated into 3 pillars (impact, conditions, and complexity)3.70 Very lowVery high 5
Impact This measures the impact of the crisis itself, in terms of the scope of its geographical, and human effects.4.00 Very lowVery high 5
Humanitarian Conditions This measures the conditions and status of the people affected, including info about the distribution of severity.4.50 Very lowVery high 5
Complexity This measures the complexity of the crisis, in terms of factors that affect its mitigation or resolution.2.30 Very lowVery high 5
Access Constraints This measures the level of humanitarian access constraints.3.0No constraintsExtreme constraints
DPRK: Humanitarian needs in the context of COVID-19
CrisisInSight: Global Risk Report
Humanitarian Access Overview
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, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.?
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.?
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.?
The DPRK announced its first COVID-19 outbreak on 12 May 2022, followed by a renewed national lockdown. Between the end of April and 17 May, state media reported that around 1.5 million were suffering from fever and 56 people had died. The lack of diagnostic testing facilities makes it difficult to estimate if the cases are all COVID-19-related. The DPRK has relied on strict lockdowns and quarantine measures since 2020 and has not yet accepted any vaccines for its population of 26 million. Humanitarian response is likely to continue being delayed by these strict containment measures, including bans on internal travel. The public health infrastructure lacks sufficient medicines and medical supplies to respond to the outbreak. In 2019, an estimated 40% of the total population was food-insecure. Strict border control measures since early 2020 have heavily depleted food stocks, worsening the food security and nutrition situation in the country. ?
For more information on the impact of COVID-19 on the DPRK, check out our Global Risk Analysis from March 2022.
The DPRK faced High humanitarian access constraints in the past six months, scoring 3/5 in ACAPS Humanitarian Access Index which indicates an improvement of the humanitarian access situation. However, little has changed since the last report. The slight change in score is due to no reports of aid agencies’ authorisations being randomly assigned or denied.
For more information you can consult our latest Global Humanitarian Access Overview – July 2022.
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.?
The DPRK closed its borders with China and Russia in January 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19. Trade with China – a major partner –was reduced in 2021 by 80%. Strict COVID-19 containment measures persist within the country, including quarantines for cargo entering the country. The strict containment measures issued by the DPRK are expected to have long-term consequences on the economy as trade, imports/exports, aid, 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 DPRK has not accepted any COVID-19 vaccines. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been no COVID-19 cases confirmed by the Government.?