Following recent reports from the DPRK, the World Council of Churches is gravely concerned about a major humanitarian crisis following the emergence of COVID-19 in North Korea. The DPRK authorities have acknowledged the deaths of at least 27 people and that 1.2 million suspected cases – or almost 5% of the entire population – are being monitored. In a context in which the North Korean population is unvaccinated, and without adequate ventilators or other essential supplies, the risk of an unprecedented death toll is very high.  The COVID-19 outbreak greatly compounds the pre-existing humanitarian situation in North Korea particularly related to food insecurity in the country..   

The WCC therefore calls for an urgent humanitarian response by the international community commensurate with the gravity of the crisis. In particular, newly developed antivirals, such as Paxlovid, must be provided as a matter of urgency, as well as diagnostics, ventilators, PPE, vaccines and other medical needs, as well as essential food supplies.

We call for a centralized and coordinated approach to the international response, through the UN, and for any obstacles presented to this response by the current sanctions against the DPRK to be lifted as a matter of fundamental ethical and humanitarian responsibility.