Published: 14:23, August 10, 2020 | Updated: 20:25, June 5, 2023
DPRK's Red Cross deploys thousands to help cope with virus, floods
By Reuters

An employee wearing a protective gear disinfects to help curb the spread of the coronavirus at the Ryugyong Health Complex's public bath in Pyongyang, DPRK, Friday, July 31, 2020. (CHA SONG HO / AP)

SEOUL - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) Red Cross has deployed 43,000 volunteers to help communities prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus and provide flood assistance, an official with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Monday.

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un declared an emergency last month and imposed a lockdown on Kaesong, near the inter-Korean border, after a man who defected to the Republic of Korea (ROK) in 2017 returned to the city showing coronavirus symptoms

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un declared an emergency last month and imposed a lockdown on Kaesong, near the inter-Korean border, after a man who defected to the Republic of Korea (ROK) in 2017 returned to the city showing coronavirus symptoms.

ALSO READ: DPRK's Kim inspects flood relief; worry grows about crops

Heavy rain and flooding in recent days have also sparked concern about crop damage and food supplies in the country.

The DPRK’s national Red Cross Society is the only organization with access to all nine provinces, and more than 43,000 volunteers have been working alongside health teams on COVID-19 prevention efforts as well as helping flood-related work, said IFRC spokesman Antony Balmain.

“Hundreds of homes have been damaged and large areas of rice fields have been submerged due to heavy rain and some flash flooding,” Balmain said.

ALSO READ: DPRK declares emergency after suspected virus case reported

Precipitation levels in the North this month were higher than 2007 when the country suffered its worst floods, a spokesman at Seoul’s Unification Ministry overseeing inter-Korean affairs said.

In Kaesong, which was grappling with both the lockdown and floods, IFRC volunteers were providing 2,100 families most at risk with relief items including tarpaulins, kitchen sets, quilts, hygiene kits and water containers, Balmain said.

“Families are being supported with psychological first aid and awareness activities to maintain hygiene and stay healthy,” he added.

ALSO READ: ROK searches for rescue workers missing in floods

Kim has also sent special aid packages to Kaesong, and state media reported on Monday that grain supplies from Pyongyang had arrived in another flood-ravaged county he visited last week.

DPRK has not confirmed any coronavirus cases but has enforced strict quarantine measures. The ROK has said there is no evidence the returning defector was infected.

The DPRK Red Cross last month received kits designed to run up to 10,000 coronavirus tests, alongside infrared thermometers, surgical masks, gowns and protective gears.

In the ROK, at least 32 people have died after 49 days of monsoon rains, the country’s longest since 1987, caused flooding, landslides and evacuations. 

READ MORE: Flood-hit ROK guards against coronavirus at relief shelters