The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has not been a recipient of large scale EU funded humanitarian assistance since the ECHO office in the capital Pyongyang closed in 2008, and humanitarian aid was phased out in favor of long-term European Commission funding more suitable to tackle the structural problems of the country's economic system. The DPRK however, remains vulnerable to natural disasters and ECHO's Regional Support Office in Bangkok continues to monitor the humanitarian situation.
Recent ECHO Assistance
On 4 July 2011 the European Commission announced its intention to provide €10 million for food assistance to the DPRK, targeting a population of some 650,000 vulnerable people, especially children, pregnant and lactating mothers and the elderly in the Northern and Eastern provinces of the country.
The decision was taken following an ECHO experts’ mission to North Korea in June 2011, which visited hospitals and clinics, kindergartens and nurseries, markets and cooperative farms and state food distribution centres in 3 provinces to gather evidence of the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
The current food crisis has several causes, such as a lower than expected summer (and main) crop harvest further to adverse weather conditions and a particularly harsh winter, altogether reducing overall domestic food production and food availability. Food rations provided through the Public Distribution System have been substantially reduced since May. ECHO’s support will be a one-off short term emergency operation (relief food and therapeutic feeding) to reduce the risk of a serious upsurge of acute malnutrition.
The North Korean government has signed a Letter of Understanding with WFP regarding all the aspects of the food chain, allowing for rigorous and unrestricted monitoring at every stage of the implementation through random checks.
The European Commission, through its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), has provided some €124 million in humanitarian aid from 1995 to 2008 for over 130 projects aimed at improving health services and access to clean water and sanitation for the most vulnerable in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Adapting to the changing needs, and taking into account requests from the DPRK for longer term development type assistance, ECHO closed its office in Pyongyang in 2008 and phased out its humanitarian aid operations.
The country remains very vulnerable to natural disaster such as floods and droughts. In October 2010, the Commission provided €200,000 to the IFRC for projects to assist communities affected by flooding in the northern border areas with China.