North Korea’s Health Dilemma



Pyongyang, North Korea – The health dilemma remains a nightmare for the ordinary people of North Korea. Recent reports from foreign doctors, defectors and aid workers paint a dark picture about the health problems in that country. They describe the horror story of amputations performed without anesthetic. The shocking story about repeated reuse of dirty needles, and beer bottles used as IV drips on patients. Intermittent electricity and no running water, result in the use of candles to illuminate the area for the doctors to carry out routine procedures. The surgeons operate with outdated equipment and medical supplies received from Russia decades ago.

North Korea has a health system that has crumbled over the past few decades into a chronic failure. It’s a health care system that results in children suffering from stunted growth due to a severe food shortage. Infant deaths jump higher each year, and tuberculosis is a ravaging disease claiming many lives. In the rocky mountain terrain, the small clinics become non-operational as the temperatures plummet  below zero. Electricity and running water is hard to find in these dense areas, and we can only imagine the devastation among the citizens. Bad roads and lack of transportation make it difficult for many to access health centers.

Two of the biggest child killers are diarrhea and pneumonia, and this country lacks the basic health infrastructure and hygiene to reduce this crises. The rising tensions in the country have resulted in a drastic reduction of support from donors, and the United Nations recently reported a lack of funding for the North Korea operation. There is a scarcity of drugs and vaccines for children and pregnant women.

The deepening poverty and deterioration in public health care have resulted in the shocking increase of deaths. Hunger remains the biggest health problem, and it is reported that two thirds of the population do not have enough to eat. The malnutrition of the citizens of North Korea is of immense concern The impact of international sanctions against the country has made it difficult to import medicine and supplies.

Pyongyang will experience further isolation as the government continues with its nuclear ambitions. This will result in humanitarian aid being affected as it gets more difficult to supply the medication and food aid to a countrycontrolled by military dominance. The government and health officials will not admit the truth about the devastating health crises and have recently upgraded one of their main hospitals in Pyongyang.

They recently allowed visitors to partake in a tour of the facility. A healthy hospital system, sparkling floors, clean crisp linen on beds, hi-tech videos, and telephones for monitoring purposes and the wooden railing replaced with stone. The visitors are taken on a tour of a newly built Brest Cancer Research Center, displaying high-tech machines for mammograms, radiation and ultrasound. The cost of this equipment is unknown but clearly a plot to conceal the real situation in that country.

This is the government propaganda machine that twists reality to suit its needs. This is the picture the reclusive government paints for the outside world to see. A picture portraying a government in control and able to withstand the international sanctions, when in fact the North Korean health care systems remains a dilemma.

Laura Oneale

2 Responses to "North Korea’s Health Dilemma"

  1. jpfmovies   June 28, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    xineh your comment to a certain extent is correct, but without what is arguably one of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in history there would be no sanctions. Let not forget that in the 1990’s during the great famine that their own impotence created many nations, including the United State donated almost 2..5 million tons of food over the decade even throughout all of the DPRK regimes blame their problems and focus so much venom on the US. And how in turn was this aid meant for the people of North Korea greeted? By a government that would not allow Korean speaking WFP volunteers into the country; limited access to roads and transportation to verify the food distribution. Even Japan, whose citizens were kidnapped by North Korea and forced to train spies, gave the country thousands of tons of food only to be met with the same thieving tactics used by the DPRK against other organizations.

    If you have a better idea, I (and the world) are all ears, but history has shown that even when food was GIVEN to them to feed the people and children of the country ended up only fattening the Military and political elite’s coffers.

    So don’t go blaming sanctions for North Korea’s problems, they lie directly on shoulders a brutal and repressive regime that refuses to change its ways.

  2. xineh   June 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    why does all blame go to the north korean government? the failure that the author describes must be understood against the sanctions that are so fleetingly mentioned at the end of the article. sanction are a humanitarian catastrophe, and they are intended not as surgical strikes against the leadership but a blow to the general population.


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