North Korea: Commission Approves EUR 7.5 Million in Humanitarian Aid

European Commission Statement, May 14, 2003.

The European Commission has adopted a 7.5 million humanitarian aid plan to support the health sector in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Funds, allocated by the Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office, ECHO, under the supervision of Commissioner Poul Nielson, will provide much-needed equipment and medicines, and help rehabilitate health centres, hospitals and special services. The programmes will be implemented by international agencies operating in the country and supervised by ECHO support offices in Pyongyang and Beijing. Since 2001, ECHO has contributed more than 24 million to support humanitarian work in the region.

The present funding decision will help rehabilitate a prosthesis factory, an orthopaedic hospital, 12 county hospitals, a rural operating theatre and 12 nurseries and canteens for children. It will provide basic equipment and medical drugs to over 1,700 health centres and 200 maternal health centres. It will deliver de-worming and Vitamin A supplements to 500,000 children and supply micro-nutrients to 200,000 pregnant and child-bearing women. It will help upgrade transfusion services and improve the quality and availability of IV-fluids.

The population of DPRK is in tremendous need of basic health care and services and doctors and nurses are poorly trained. There has been almost no investment in the health sector infrastructure for over three decades. There is scarce electricity as well as a shortage of supplies such as laboratories, blood-testing and sterilisation equipment. There is also inadequate handling, storing and use of intravenous fluids and blood for transfusions.

Life expectancy fell by six years between 1995 and 1999. Figures indicate that 21% of the child population are underweight, 42% suffer chronic malnutrition and 9% suffer acute malnutrition. According to a 2001 comprehensive health review by the International Federation of the Red Cross, malaria has resurfaced and there are rising numbers of tuberculosis cases, digestive ailments and acute respiratory infections.

This decision covers the whole country but focuses primarily on the provinces of South Hamnyong, Chagang, North Pyongang, South Pyongang, Ryanggang, North Hamgyong and South Hamgyong, which covers an estimated population of 7 million.

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