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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
© IFRC/Benjamin Suomela
North Korea (DPRK)



According to United Nations agencies, over 10 million people are undernourished, have limited access to basic services, and require humanitarian assistance.

North Korea is also prone to extreme weather conditions, particularly droughts, floods, and storms. At the same time, access to the country for humanitarian organisations remains constrained. Strict COVID-19 measures by the government makes access even more challenging.

What are the needs?

The food and nutrition situation of North Korea’s population remains fragile and is subject to deterioration in case of natural hazards and other shocks.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the uncovered food gap in 2021 was estimated at the equivalent to approximately 2.3 months of food use (a gap of about 860,000 tonnes). COVID-19 has led to further tightening of borders and other measures that further worsens the situation.

The country continued to experience natural hazards, which also threatened food security for a large part of the country's population.

Although child undernutrition has steadily declined over the past decade, additional efforts are required to improve children’s conditions. According to UNICEF’s latest nutrition survey in 2021, stunting rates (low height compared to age) was reported at 19%, which is considered a “medium” public health.   

Recurrent natural hazards, ranging from extended droughts and severe flooding to occasional typhoons, further increase people’s vulnerabilities and need for humanitarian assistance.

International sanctions adopted against North Korea in early 2013 have made it increasingly difficult to make international bank transfers into the country. This directly affects the functioning of humanitarian agencies.


How are we helping?

The EU has responded to humanitarian needs in North Korea since 1995. We have provided more than €136.2 million in humanitarian funding to independent humanitarian organisations to support over 130 projects.

EU humanitarian aid focuses on providing food assistance and improving health services and access to clean water and sanitation to the most vulnerable.

Access for humanitarian organisations to North Korea has become more and more constrained over time. Whereas needs remain high, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, borders have remained tightly closed, impeding access for our humanitarian partners.

Following the early seasonal drought that hit the country in early 2019, the EU allocated €55,000 to support the International Federation of the Red Cross in providing essential assistance to the most vulnerable families in the worst-hit eastern province of South Hamgyong.

Earlier in August 2018, when the provinces of North and South Hwanghae were struck by large-scale flooding and landslides, the EU provided €100,000 to assist those most affected by the disaster.

In 2016, the EU offered €300,000 to provide life-saving relief items to families affected by devastating flooding that swept across large parts of the northernmost province of North Hamgyong.

In early 2016, continuing its support to the most vulnerable communities, the EU provided €300,000 for an initiative led by the Finnish Red Cross (FRC), focusing on enhancing the capacity of people in rural areas to respond to future floods and droughts, at both local and national levels. The programme, which ran until November 2017, directly benefited more than 7,000 people in targeted areas.

Last updated: 10/03/2022
Picture: FICR / Benjamin Suomela

Facts & figures

10.4 million people need humanitarian assistance.

Over 6.6 million people were affected by natural hazards between 2004 and 2019.

EU humanitarian funding:
More than €136.2 million since 1995