Food shortages, natural disasters and other humanitarian issues in North Korea were not adequately known to the outside world, making the country the world’s sixth-most underreported humanitarian crisis last year, an international relief group has said.

“Due to the political isolation of North Korea and the ban on journalists in the country, the dire humanitarian situation of large parts of the population remains hidden from the eyes of the world,” South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported citing CARE International as saying in an annual report of the topmost underreported humanitarian crises released on Tuesday.

The report highlighted the urgent health crises in North Korea, pointing out that more than 40 per cent of the population does not have access to clean drinking water and suffers from malnutrition.

Food shortages were further affected last year as natural disasters, such as droughts and floods, have led to a decline in crop production.

Around 10.9 million North Koreans are in need of humanitarian assistance to meet their food, health, water, sanitation and hygiene needs, according to the UN.

The country lacks up-to-date media coverage and public awareness as the country hardly ever grants access to journalists.

The remaining nine countries are from the African continent, with Madagascar topping the list, followed by the Central African Republic and Zambia.