WHO launches health initiative in DPRK

UPDATE:  According to the Associated Press (Via Washinton Post):

North Korea formally launched a medical videoconference network Tuesday aimed at giving smaller, rural hospitals access to specialists in the capital Pyongyang with the help of the World Health Organization.

WHO has been providing cameras, computers and other equipment to North Korea to help the reclusive, impoverished country connect a main hospital in Pyongyang with medical facilities in 10 provinces. The system is designed to allow doctors to talk to each other to provide additional services to rural patients.

On Tuesday, North Korean health officials and visiting WHO Director-General Margaret Chan held the formal inaugural ceremony for the system at the Kim Man Yu hospital in Pyongyang, according to footage from broadcaster APTN.

“This is an excellent vision because it meets the needs of the government,” Chan said.

Chan, clad in a white gown, later tested the system by talking with provincial doctors via video link.

One unidentified doctor at Jagang province, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Pyongyang, told Chan he is satisfied with the system because it’s too far for his patients to visit specialists in the capital.

She arrived in Pyongyang on Monday, becoming the U.N. agency’s first chief to visit the communist country since 2001.

WHO opened its office in Pyongyang in 2001 and has coordinated the purchase of medical equipment and supplies for North Koreans. The world’s health body says on its Web site that it is currently focusing on strengthening the North’s health infrastructure.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Associated Press (via Taiwan News):

World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan arrived in North Korea on Monday on a rare visit to the isolated country.

The U.N. body has said Chan will spend two days in the reclusive communist country _ the first chief to go since 2001 _ to tour health facilities and meet the country’s health minister.

The WHO has not provided details of Chan’s itinerary, but the Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch that Chan arrived in Pyongyang on Monday.

The dispatch said the government held a reception for Chan, who arrived the same day as Red Cross and Red Crescent officials. It was not clear if the visits were connected.

The North faces chronic food shortages and has relied on outside assistance to feed much of its population since a famine believed to have killed as many as 2 million people in the 1990s.

Malnutrition, dysentery, and vitamin and iodine deficiency are believed to pose serious risks among children in the country, which also faces a shortfall of hospitals and lacks an efficient state health care system.

Read the full stories here:
WHO chief arrives in North Korea on rare visit
Associate Press (Taiwan Times)
4/26/2010

NKorea launches telemedicine network with WHO help
Associated Press (via Washinton Post)
Kim Hyung-Jin
4/27/2010

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