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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Corrected on August 6 to clarify that Welthungerhilfe’s approval was only for one of seven originally requested by the organization
Three more aid organizations have received UN sanctions exemptions for humanitarian work in North Korea, according to information published in recent days by the UN Security Council committee in charge of DPRK sanctions, bringing the total number approved so far in 2019 to 13.
The latest exemption recipients are the World Health Organization (WHO), the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide, and the German organization Deutsche Welthungerhilfe, and follows a string of similar decisions by the 1718 Committee since mid-January.
Items which the WHO will now be allowed to bring into North Korea include those related to the organization’s “emergency preparedness policies for its country office, i.e. decontamination kits, a radiation detector kit, and radio communications equipment.”
The committee said these items, approved on February 14, are considered “a matter of staff safety and security, which is a necessary prerequisite for WHO’s humanitarian activities in the DPRK.”
The WHO is one of the premier aid organizations with offices in Pyongyang, working in areas including general healthcare, disease treatment and prevention, and food safety.
Concern Worldwide, based in Ireland, received approval on February 15 for their work tackling “security and access to water, sanitation and hygiene, for the benefit of the civilian population in the DPRK,” according to the UN.
The organization has yet to release an annual report for 2018, though its report the previous year detailed work on sanitation issues, drought relief, and water projects, including the installation of a solar-powered water pipeline and cooperation with farmers on growing techniques.
Next to the UK and Ireland, South Korea is one of the organization’s primary backers, with its offices there raising millions of euros in funding from 16,000 “regular giving donors” and the general public in the South, the report said.
Finally, the most recent exemption, approved by the UN committee on February 20, will allow Deutsche Welthungerhilfe to deliver into North Korea “goods and equipment… required for its activities concerning the provision of safe drinking water.”
The organization’s approval letter was the only of the three to be uploaded to the committee’s website as of Monday, which clarified that requests were also made to send equipment for “production and storage of seeds,” “improving the nutrition situation,” “humanitarian disaster prevention,” and for the “improvement of food supply.”
These request were all originally submitted on November 12, the letter said, though only those related to the safe drinking water project were approved.
Additional details such as item lists, costs, and shipping methods for the latest three exemptions have yet to be provided by the committee, though they are expected to be released in the coming days.
Welthungerhilfe states on its website that it has been working in North Korea since 1996, and that its work in the country in 2017 covered five projects concerning “food and nutrition security, disaster risk reduction, [and] sloping land management,” according to its annual report for that year.
Both Concern Worldwide and Deutsche Welthungerhilfe are part of European Union Programme Support (EUPS) units working in North Korea.
Handicap International (now Humanity & Inclusion) is another EUPS which also recently received sanctions exemptions, last month receiving approval for the import of items mostly intended to assist children with disabilities.
An additional request from the organization and also from the French NGO Première Urgence Internationale for projects assisting those with disabilities in North Korea were also approved in January.
The UN committee also approved exemption requests for multiple organizations – UNICEF, the Eugene Bell Foundation, Christian Friends of Korea, and First Steps Health Society – working on North Korea’s many public health issues, especially in the treatment of tuberculosis.
Similar to the most recent exemptions, two organizations – World Vision International and Swiss Humanitarian Aid – also received approvals at the end of January for their work on water sanitation projects.
Another exemption for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) brought the total number of approvals in January to ten, following U.S. efforts to reverse a previous policy of stricter sanctions pressure.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Concern Worldwide