( CNN) As frigid wintertime weather sweeps over the Korean Peninsula, the United Nations has warned that punitive imposing sanctions on North Korea could have unintended repercussions for the country’s long-suffering civilian population.

“The humanitarian assistance provided by the UN agencies and others is literally a lifeline for some 13 million acutely vulnerable individuals, but sanctions may be adversely affecting this vital assistance, ” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s top human rights official.

Speaking Monday via teleconference before a UN Security Council meeting on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea( DPRK ), North Korea’s officer name, Zeid said heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have led to worsening conditions for those living under the regime of North Korean president Kim Jong Un.

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