UNICEF sends life saving supplies to vulnerable children
PYONGYANG, 11 July 2008 – Today, UNICEF trucks loaded with nutritional supplies and medicines, intended for children in the isolated North Eastern provinces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, have started rolling out of Pyongyang, the capital city. The trucks are expected to reach these provinces, which have been off limit to all international agencies since the end of 2006, after an arduous four day drive over mountainous roads.
The supplies being sent include 11 metric tons of therapeutic milk (F-100) and 1.5 tons of ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF) for treating severely malnourished children as well as 93 kits of essential medicine that can serve a total population of nearly 400,000 people for three months.
This delivery marks the resumption of UNICEF support to these remote provinces, which was interrupted when the DPRK government closed access to these areas at the end of 2006. Prior to the closure, UNICEF, who had been operational in the areas since 1999, had been providing critical support and supplies for basic health, nutrition and water supply services.
The UN Country Team has been negotiating with the Government to reassume humanitarian access to these provinces since early 2007. On 7th July at a meeting with the Resident Coordinator ai., the Government confirmed that UN agencies and NGOs would once again be permitted to travel to these provinces.
‘We welcome the decision by the Government to reassume humanitarian access to these provinces. It is now urgent we reach children as quickly as possible with life saving support’ said Gopalan Balagopal, UNICEF Representative. ‘Our priority is to work closely with other partners to reach vulnerable children quickly with food, basic health and nutrition services and also to ensure that severely malnourished children get the treatment that is needed to save their lives.’
An assessment on food security, which has just been completed by the World Food Programme, indicates that there are a large number of malnourished children in the two North Eastern provinces of North Hamgyong and Ryanggang, both badly affected by last years floods.
The reports are consistent with an earlier joint nutritional survey conducted by UNICEF and WFP, which also found high rates of malnutrition in these two provinces. A 2004 nutritional survey identified 46 per cent of children under five in Ryanggang province suffering from stunting, 9 per cent suffering from wasting and 31 per cent underweight. In North Hamgyong province, 10 per cent of children under five were suffering from wasting. Recent Government data on the number of malnourished children admitted in hospitals also indicate high numbers for these two provinces.
A team led by Gopalan Balagopal, UNICEF Representative in DPRK and including UNICEF’s Chief of Health and Nutrition leaves for an 11 day mission to these two provinces on Saturday 12th July. They plan to visit hospitals, health facilities and institutions for children in county towns and villages and finalize arrangements to train doctors and caregivers in the treatment of malnutrition and monitor the use of supplies. It is expected that training on the treatment of acute malnutrition will start next week with the assistance of an expert consultant who arrives in Pyongyang today.