The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is yet to procure or deliver coronavirus-related aid to North Korea due to “export restrictions” and the country’s effective closure of its borders, the organization told NK News on Friday.
“IFRC is working on getting the critical items that have been requested by Red Cross Society of DPRK to the people who need them as quickly as possible,” Ellie Van Baaren, a spokesperson for the NGO, said in an email.
“There are a number of factors to consider in this process,” she continued, explaining that the “global shortage of personal protective equipment and the consequent export restrictions by some countries” were hampering the organization’s plans to procure the items for North Korea.
“Given the global shortage of supplies and items being available in different locations, we are still in the process of procuring the items,” she said, adding that “border closures and the restrictions on incoming goods to DPRK” were another factor delaying the delivery.
The IFRC received an exemption from international sanctions from the UN in late February to deliver equipment needed for the country’s efforts to prevent and manage a potential outbreak of COVID-19.
But while the sanctions exemption request was approved by the UN relatively quickly, it appears that the test kits will not be able to reach Pyongyang anytime soon.
North Korea on Friday reiterated claims that the country has zero coronavirus cases, with state media reporting that 500 people remain under “medical observation” in its territory.
But whether the country even has the capacity to diagnose those suspected to be infected with the illness remains unclear.
The IFRC’s February sanctions exemption, for, among other items, one RT-PCR diagnostic machine and 10,000 test kits (RT-PCR reagents), was aimed at mitigating some of those concerns.
Examination gloves, surgical masks, and medical gowns were also included in the list of items of exempted items, which were set to be shipped to North Korea by air.
It’s unclear when precisely the shipment will arrive in North Korea, though other organizations such as UNICEF and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) have in recent days succeeded in transferring aid to the DPRK, albeit after considerable delays.
Russia in late February also reported it had sent 1500 rapid test kits to North Korea.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is yet to procure or deliver coronavirus-related aid to North Korea due to "export restrictions" and the country's effective closure of its borders, the organization told NK News on Friday.
"IFRC is working on getting the critical items that have been requested by Red Cross Society of DPRK to the people who need them as quickly as possible," Ellie Van Baaren, a spokesperson for the NGO, said in an email.