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Children's Health In DPR Of Korea Still Threatened

Despite Improvements, Children's Health In DPR Of Korea Still Threatened - UN

Despite successes in efforts to save and improve the lives of children in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the country's social service is in a severe state of decline and poses serious challenges to their future, the head of the United Nations children's agency said today.

"What we've learned over the past eight years is that this Government is open to outside help, works hard to bring about positive change, and cares about its children. But we've also learned that the problems to be confronted are growing, not diminishing," Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said after a three-day visit to the DPRK.

Speaking in Seoul, capital of the neighbouring Republic of Korea, Ms. Bellamy said that despite international isolation and a political impasse with the West, the DPRK's immunization rates have vastly improved while better systems for finding and treating cases of severe malnutrition are in place.

But despite these successes since her last visit in 1997, the humanitarian crisis triggered by natural disasters in the mid-90s has been compounded by structural issues, such as global economic change, outdated infrastructure and inadequate government revenue, that cannot be solved through emergency relief alone.

"This nation faces enormous challenges, and children remain extremely vulnerable to malnutrition, illness, and deaths that are entirely preventable," she said.

Noting that UNICEF's efforts in cooperation with the Government are working, she said nearly 80 per cent of children are being vaccinated, up from 35 per cent, and some 60,000 malnourished children are receiving therapeutic feeding while work is underway to ensure that more communities get clean water.

"All these efforts are the result of a growing partnership between the Government and aid agencies -- the kind of partnership many thought could not work here," she added.

Ms. Bellamy, who Yong Nam, and government ministers, said she was impressed by the level of trust DPRK officials have developed with the aid community. But she noted that lack of access to parts of the country is an unresolved issue, and she pressed for more openness.

UNICEF recently embarked on a new three-year programme with the Government, emphasizing nutrition for children, basic health care, improvements in the supply of water, and education.

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