Archive for the ‘Epidemics’ Category

DPRK enacts measures to prevent bird flu

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

From Yonhap:

North Korea on Tuesday asked South Korea not to bring poultry products to the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, a North Korean border town, in an attempt to prevent the introduction of bird flu into the communist state, the Unification Ministry said.

The ban from the North Korean quarantine office in the Kaesong complex includes birds, poultry and eggs, and will go into effect on Saturday, ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said.

There have not been any cases of bird flu reported in North Korea.

South Korea sends some 8.5 tons of chicken and 127,000 eggs every month to eateries in the complex, the ministry said.

If South Korean chicken has been taken off the menu in the Kaesong Zone, maybe they will replace it with some of that new low-cost American beef that should be on its way soon! 

I won’t hold my breath.

The full story can be read here:
N. Korea bans S. Korea from bringing poultry, eggs to Kaesong


6,000 North Korean children receive vaccines…

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

…against Japanese encephalitis, meningitis

The one-day campaign on Feb. 29 was a pilot project to study the feasibility of introducing both vaccines to the north’s routine inoculation program, the Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute said in a statement.

Some 3,000 children in Sariwon, south of Pyongyang, received the encephalitis vaccine, while the others in the city of Nampo, southwest of the capital, were administered with a vaccine against Haemophilus influenza type B – a bacteria that causes meningitis, it said.

Read the full story here:
6,000 North Korean children receive vaccines against Japanese encephalitis, meningitis
Associated Press


Working logistics for the Eugene Bell Foundation in North Korea…

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

…does not sound like very easy job based on the most in-depth media coverage of their operations published in the Washington Post.

The story portrays the sad state of the DPRK’s medical facilities and shows just how much local doctors struggle to serve their patients.  According to Eugene Bell Foundation Chairman Stephen Linton:

“I’ve seen doctors who tried to capture sunlight by reflecting it from a mirror,” [during surgery] he says.

By North Korean standards, [this] patient is fortunate. She’s been given a local anesthetic, which is rare in a country where surgeons routinely etherize patients, strap them down and try to finish the operation before they come to.


Like most hospitals and care centers in North Korea, the facility employs a direct-fluoroscopy machine, an X-ray device that irradiates the patient from behind while the doctor examines an image projected on a fluoroscopic plate of glass between them. “The negative is the doctor’s retina,” says Linton, who frequently admonishes physicians for submitting themselves to the machines’ potentially fatal doses of radiation. Most physicians in North Korea use them regularly, and suffer the consequences. The radiologist at Kosong, for example, has receding gums and low hemoglobin, common signs of radiation sickness. Three of his colleagues have died over the years — one from radiation overdose, another from cancer and a third from tuberculosis.

But the toll poor infrastructure takes on the provision of good health care is only exacerbated by the difficulties the DPRK bureaucracy puts in his way:

Of the 36 NGOs that began operations in North Korea as famine gutted the rural population in the mid-1990s, all but a handful have left in frustration. And Linton is particularly demanding: He insists on delivering his supplies personally, lest they be diverted to another facility or end up on the black market. When government officials balk, Linton refuses to resupply the site. So each of his two resupply visits annually is preceded by lengthy and sometimes rancorous negotiations.

“They say they want to save wear and tear on the vehicles, so they need to cut our sites by a third. Fine. I’ll cut theirs as well. Mary, I’ll need a red marker.”

Most of the cancellations involve small sanatoriums in rural areas — the very sites his donors are so keen to support. Linton suspects his hosts want to avoid those facilities because, relative to the urban care centers, their poor sanitation makes them legitimately hazardous. And the wear-and-tear issue isn’t just a red herring. Spending days crisscrossing the countryside on unpaved roads takes a huge toll on the delegation’s fleet of SUVs — vehicles that, between Linton’s visits, the ministry is allowed to use for its own purposes. In resource-starved North Korea, even government officials must barter to replace broken fan belts and transmissions. The last thing the bureaucrats want is to risk losing a precious automobile.

Linton is also apparently given a curfew when he is required to be back at this guest house in Pyongyang.

It seems Tuberculosis is running rampant at the moment:

South Korean sources suggest that tuberculosis has affected as much as 5 percent of North Korea’s population of 23 million. Linton estimates the Eugene Bell Foundation has treated up to 250,000 patients, 70 percent of whom might have otherwise died.

The whole article is well worth reading.

Donations can be made here.

The full article can be found here:
Giving Until It Hurts
Washington Post
Stephen Glain
3/9/2008, Page W16


North Korea’s Hyesan Jangmadang Prohibits Sale of Medical Products

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee

An internal source conveyed on the 30th that due to an extreme decree which prohibits all sales of medical goods, the suffering of citizens has been increasing.

The source maintained that “In August, the sale of medical products was banned, and by the start of anti-socialism inspections in September, no medical products could be found in the jangmadang.”

The North Korean authorities have long since stated its position in prohibiting the sale of medical goods, saying that the sale of medical goods in the jangmadang is a show of democracy that undermines the national medical system. However, regulations usually never went beyond formalities.

Recently, however, anti-socialism inspections have been conducted on a large-scale in Yankang with the theme of “Abolishing capitalist trends in the market.” Medical products, which are mostly from China and South Korea, have been regulated more aggressively. Some have said that the authorities have strengthened regulations due to frequent incidences involving Chinese sub-standard medical products.”

With the harbinger of regulation of medical products, pharmaceutical vendors have sold medical products to their acquaintances on a limited basis. The price has increased significantly as well. Chinese-made aspirin, “Zhengtongbian”, which costs 20 North Korean won per pill, has hiked up to 30 won. A bottle of anti-diarrhea medicine has increased from 150 won to 300 won and penicillin from 120 to 200 won.

Especially the smuggling of Electrolyte Solution, used in IV’s to hydrate hospital patients, has stopped due to regulations, causing a jump in price.

From mid-August to the end of October, the anti-socialism inspections in Hyesan, Yankang were cooperatively conducted by the central Party, the Prosecutor’s Office, the National Security Agency and the People’s Safety Agency. Along with the strict regulation of cell phones, the market, and capitalist “corruption,” the medical goods ban has cast a heavy burden on the civilians.

“Good Friends” reported in October that “Thirty people have been incarcerated as a result of the anti-socialism inspections in Yankang since mid-August, and regulations have tightened.”

When the sale of medical products completely ceased in the markets, citizens and doctors who must treat their patients have been extremely disgruntled.

The source said, “People have to go to the homes of pharmacists in order to buy medicine, but they cannot if the pharmacists do not know them personally. The price has increased dramatically due to the regulations of medicinal products.”

“Even hospitals do not carry medicine and there is no way to procure them, even at doctors’ request.” Doctors have complained, saying “Are we supposed to just sit by and watch the sick people?”

A majority of medical products that could be found in the markets were Chinese-made contraband goods. In some cases, Party leaders or army hospital leaders have illegally procured medicine as well.

The source commented that when civilian discontent rose, the Party Municipal Committee explained the cause of the cease in sale of medical goods as, “In a socialist society, hospitals have guaranteed medical goods, but during this temporary time of suffering, some immoral people have hoarded the national medical supply and are making a profit.”


Expert says N.K. becoming more open, better at dealing with national disasters

Monday, September 24th, 2007


North Korea is becoming more transparent and effective in dealing with disasters, spurred by both internal and external factors, an Asia-Pacific regional specialist said in his latest paper.

Dr. Alexandre Mansourov, a securities studies professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Hawaii, noted five trends in the North Korean government’s responses over the past decade to nationwide shocks, including floods, typhoons, drought and avian influenza outbreaks.

Increasing transparency is one of the trends, with Pyongyang more quickly admitting to disasters that have struck the nation, he said in a paper (download here) released last week through the Korea Economic Institute in Washington.

It took North Korea several years to admit the impact of natural disasters in the mid-1990s that led to massive starvation and chronic food shortages. But in August 2000, when it was hit by Typhoon Prapiroon, North Korea released the news three weeks after it occurred, and in the two following years, when other typhoons struck, North Korea reported it within three to six days, Mansourov said.

Pyongyang immediately acknowledged flooding in August 2007, he said.

“Observers agree that the timeliness, details, and amount of coverage of flood damage and rehabilitation work in August 2007 is unprecedented.”

North Korea is also showing institutional knowledge and a capacity for disaster management, with new organizations growing out of a decade of learning and experience, such as various provincial centers, the professor said.

The North Korean Red Cross Society has been exceptional, he said, working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and has made itself the leading agency in disaster preparedness and response.

Inter-agency coordination has also increased, with deputy prime minister-level working groups working closely together in each disaster since the flood of 2001, as there are preventive programs through which basic relief supplies are stored in town and villages.

For example, the 10-year strategy against avian influenza, worked out by the emergency commission in 2005, would have been unthinkable a decade ago, Mansourov wrote.

Another notable trend is the increasing cooperation between the North Korean government and international humanitarian community, gradually allowing joint needs assessments and monitoring, he noted.

Mansourov argued that external factors helped bring about the changes.

“International factors did make a difference in what happened in (North Korea), especially through the introduction of innovative ideas and dissemination of best humanitarian practices,” in addition to foreign aid, he said.

The scholar also argued that while the country’s top leader, Kim Jong-il, does control any institutional changes, there is also adaptation driven by needs.

“There has been some degree of autonomous institutional learning and adaptation; it is incremental in nature and caused by both positive and negative feedback from the environment regarding institutional performance in crisis situations,” he said.


Int’l Red Cross to continue N.K. aid on containing measles

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Korea Herald

The international Red Cross will continue to help North Korea in treating measles-related illnesses, including medicine aid, the organization said Wednesday in its program update, Yonhan News Agency reported.

In the first phase of a joint immunization plan, the International Federation of Red Cross and North Korea campaigned to vaccinate 6 million children between 6 months and 15 years old.

“The DPRK Red Cross and the federation are contributing 10.2 million doses of vitamin A. The federation is also contributing 262,000 doses of ampicillin to health facilities in four provinces for the treatment of measels-related complications,” the update said.

DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, an official name of North Korea.


More Help Needed to Improve NK’s Public Health

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Korea Times
Lee Jin-woo

A middle-aged American doctor who grew up in South Korea has stressed that it’s time to move on to helping North Korea with public health issues.

“North Korea’s food situation is at least better. We need to move on to public health issues including rebuilding the North’s nine provincial and 200 county hospitals,” John A. Linton of Yonsei University’s Severance Hospital in Seoul told The Korea Times in an interview on Monday. The 47-year-old doctor heads the hospital’s international health care center.

Linton, who is well-known for his Korean name Yin Yo-han and thick South Jeolla Province accent, proposed a three-stage medical support program for North Korea from the South Korean government.

“Number one, we need to help them with a vaccination program, which should be followed by supplies of diagnostic equipment,” he said. “The final stage should be an exchange of doctors between the two Koreas.”

He said North Korean doctors need basic diagnostic equipment _ ultrasound and x-ray machines, and clinical pathology supplies _ as well as more operating theaters.

“You have to have a healthy population in the North, for them to survive and become competitive enough to receive economic finance and business opportunities.”

He hoped that large-scale medical support to the North on a regular basis would be discussed during ministerial talks between the two Koreas in the near future.

“Nobody can argue with health care,” he said. “North Korea has been an enemy, but now at the same time they are brothers. Even if they are an enemy, you must help them.”

Linton, who visited the North 17 times between 1997 and 2003 to help eradicate tuberculosis in the Stalinist state, said it should be South Korea, not the United Nations or the World Health Organization (WHO), that needs to take the lead in helping the North.

“You have to be very, very careful with the U.N. and WHO. They treat the two Koreas as two separate countries differently,” he said. “Eventually policy should be looking towards unification. South Koreans should take the lead.”

Asked whether he is a big fan of South Korea’s engagement policy toward Pyongyang, dubbed the `Sunshine policy,’ he said he supports it wholeheartedly. Linton, however, emphasized the need to guarantee transparency in the process.

“We should not encourage some of the North Korean leadership as middle management is very corrupt. We should not reward corrupt people there. That’s not for us that’s for North Korea.”

His dedication toward helping the North was initiated by his mother, who worked to eradicate tuberculosis in Suncheon in South Jeolla Province for some 40 years. She decided to donate ambulances to North Korea in 1997.

“When we got there in Pyongyang, we suddenly received a special request from North Korea asking for assistance treating TB throughout the whole country,” he said. “We visited the entire country while helping them fight TB.”

In his autobiography published last year, Linton recalled his unforgettable experiences as an interpreter during the bloody Kwangju pro-democracy movement in May 1980.

He served as a translator to people who occupied the provincial capital against the then military regime led by former President Chun Doo-hwan.

“Immediately following this experience, I was labeled as an insurgent ,” he said. “The American embassy in Seoul asked me to leave Korea, just for translating for three to four hours for reporters.”

He said his experience in Kwangju changed his personal life and made him understand what injustice is and how dangerous newspapers are.

He said such a great sacrifice should never ever happen again on the Korean Peninsula.


Eugene Bell Spring Trip to North Korea

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Eugene Bell Foundation (Hat tip D.”S.”B.)
207 C Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003   
TEL: 202-393-0645   
FAX: 202-543-2390
For more information:
Alice Jean Suh; [email protected];

EugeneBell Returns from 2007 Spring Visit to North Korea Initiates Maternal and Infant Care and Children’s Care Programs

The Eugene Bell Foundation earlier this month visited 17 medical institutions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and launched two groundbreaking community health projects targeting the country’s most vulnerable groups: new mothers and infants, and school-aged children.  From May 1-12, EugeneBell’s chairman, Dr. Stephen Linton, and four delegation members visited city, district, and county medical institutions in North Korea’s South Pyongan Province. All 17 institutions received shipments of assistance as part of EugeneBell’s Partner Package Program 

New Maternal and Infant Care Program and Children’s Care Program

EugeneBell confirmed the new programs’ first deliveries of instructional materials, equipment and supplies at two local hospitals in Sunchon and Anju, cities in South Pyongan Province. These new programs will be implemented in three steps to ensure transparency. Our delegation received agreements from the medical staff at both institutions to implement the first step, with the understanding that progress to the second and third steps will require proof of adherence to EugeneBell’s standards on further visits. These new programs signify groundbreaking advances in EugeneBell’s work. In addition to providing training, equipment and supplies for entire institutions, these programs have also tailored assistance to individual patients. For the first time, EugeneBell will partner with doctors at the most basic level of care in North Korea’s system. All citizens in North Korea are assigned family care physicians. EugeneBell’s new programs will strengthen the ability of family doctors to treat individual patients more effectively and transparently.  “I am very excited about this new opportunity to help insure that pregnant women receive the best care possible from early pregnancy through child-birth,” said Dr. Linton. “We hope to help North Korean caregivers manage child health from the womb all the way through grade school, the most critical period for human development.”  The initial phase of these two new programs received an enthusiastic welcome from hospital staffs. EugeneBell plans to extend this effort to other local hospitals as funding becomes available.

Equipment and Training Upgrades for Local Hospitals Dramatically Improve Local Healthcare

During this visit the delegation was able to evaluate the effectiveness of a program to upgrade diagnostic and surgical capacity at seven out of 40 plus medical facilities supported by EugeneBell. The delegation was impressed at the level of technical sophistication achieved by North Korean caregivers after receiving comprehensive training manuals last year. Through self-study North Korean technicians had, in a surprisingly short time, mastered the use of complex diagnostic equipment and had even made minor repairs.  “It was very impressive,” said Dr. Linton, “to see North Korean technicians operating advanced equipment previously unfamiliar to them. More impressive was the level of cooperation between hospitals that had received the same equipment. When we first started this program, these hospitals were empty because patients had little hope of receiving adequate treatment.  Now that they have new equipment, previously empty hospitals are filled to capacity. Patients wait in line to be examined by the new equipment. “It’s worth the effort to watch these hospitals come back to life.”

Support for Children with Tuberculosis

On this visit the delegation found a new emphasis on treating children with tuberculosis. Several new children’s wards have been established to provide better care for young patients in South Pyongan Province, Nampo City and Pyongyang City. Children are particularly at risk of tuberculosis when their immune systems are weakened by poor nutrition. In response to the new emphasis on childhood tuberculosis by North Korea’s health authorities, EugeneBell will include a system for providing assistance directly to young patients this fall.

Medical Institutions Visited

During May 1st – 12th EugeneBell visited 17 North Korean medical institutions in: South Pyongan Province and Nampo City, South Pyongan Province Tuberculosis Hospital (TBH), Children’s Ward-South Pyongan TBH, South Pyongan Province Children’s Hospital, Anju City Tuberculosis Care Center (TBCC), Pyongsong City TBCC, Bukchang County TBCC, Sunchon City TBCC, Daean County TBCC, Ryonggang County TBCC, Anju City People’s Hospital, Sunchon City People’s Hospital, Daean County People’s Hospital, Chollima County People’s Hospital, Nampo City TBH, Nampo City TBCC, Waudo District People’s Hospital, Hanggu District People’s Hospital 

Total Results of Support in Spring 2007: $ 1,793,717.21 This spring EugeneBell shipped a total of $1,793,717.21 worth of medical goods to 45 medical institutions in North Pyongan Province, South Pyongan Province, Pyongyang City and Nampo City.  

EugeneBell in Action


1. New mother and infant at the Anju City People’s Hospital, part of EugeneBell’s new Maternal and Infant Care Program.


2. Children in Anju City being given health physicals, part of EugeneBell’s new Children’s Care Program.


3. Grade school students are examined at a mobile X-ray vehicle donated through EugeneBell to Nampo Tuberculosis Hospital.


4. Dr. Linton interviews a young patient at the Children’s Tuberculosis Ward at Nampo Tuberculosis Care Center.


5. A patient is examined with a sonogram donated through EugeneBell at Daean People’s Hospital.

6. Dr. Linton (left) delivers medical supplies and equipment to Chollima People’s Hospital in South Pyongan Province. In the spring of 2007 EugeneBell shipped almost 1,800,000 dollars of medical assistance to 40 odd medical facilities.


7. Through EugeneBell donors sent 2,200 sets of Patient Necessities Kits to long-term patients in sixteen tuberculosis care centers. EugeneBell does everything possible to identify donors to recipients.


About 16 million immunized against measles in N. Korea

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Kyodo News

About 16 million children and adults have been immunized against measles in North Korea in one of the fastest responses to a major outbreak of the disease, it was revealed Friday.

The mass vaccination was organized by the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and North Korea after the government asked for help in February.

According to the international organizations, the immunization campaign was done in two phases, with 6 million children aged 6 months to 15 years vaccinated last month and 10 million people aged 16 to 45 years immunized earlier this month.

The campaign was arranged following the appearance of several cases of measles in North Korea last November. By February this year two adults and two children had died and more than 3,600 had been infected.

Measles had not been reported in North Korea before this outbreak since 1992, according to a joint press release from the international organizations involved, and many health workers in the country were unfamiliar with the disease.

“This was a remarkable example of good cooperation between different organizations,” said Jaap Timmer, the International Federation’s head of delegation in North Korea.

“The Red Cross mobilized more than 15,000 of its volunteers to visit families and explain the importance and benefits of the vaccination campaign.”

Measles is spread by contact with fluid from an infected person’s nose or mouth and is highly contagious. Symptoms include fever and a rash.

Sending vaccines and syringes to North Korea cost about $6 million, the press release said.


FAO Controls Foot & Mouth Disease in North Korea

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

Daily NK
Kim Song A

Aid for North Korea to prevent further spread of outbreak

The spread of foot and mouth disease that took over the province of Sangwon, Pyongyang has been brought under control announced the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on the 4th, further adding that future endemics were improbable.

The FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) conducted tests over a period of one week inspecting the infected areas of North Korea.

The FAO Newsroom site reported Chief Veterinary Officer, Joseph Domenech who said, “Based on the mission’s visit to the infected area and discussions with North Korean veterinary authorities we concluded that there is a limited risk that new outbreaks could occur.” Nonetheless, North Korea is yet to remain on the alert list he said.

In relation, the DailyNK made similar reports in February on the rise of foot and mouth disease in the border regions of North Hamkyung province and control measures taken by North Korean authorities to block further contamination.

The disease was identified in cows of Hoiryeong city in early January. Consequently, North Korean authorities secluded the region for 40 days until Feb 24th, even terminating all transportation to the North Korea-China border.

The FAO is preparing a proposal to prevent further epidemics by assisting North Korea with vaccines, an emergency plan as well as laboratory infrastructure and training.

In future, North Korea will need to strengthen its system where animals are registered and identifiable as well as improving quarantine and controlled supervision of animals during transportation.

This epidemic was the first to occur in North Korea since 1960. So far, 400 infected cattle and 2,600 pigs have been rounded up and are undergoing the standard regulatory procedures.

Previously on March 28th, the South Korean government sent 280 mn won worth of medicine, antiseptic and instruments to North Korea to prevent further outbreak. Additionally, extra supplies requested by the North including sterilization are being prepared to be sent.