Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aid agencies in row over North Korea health care system

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a report on North Korea's health system by Amnesty International is unscientific and outdated. Amnesty said North Korea was failing to meet its people's most basic healthcare needs.

In April, the WHO's director visited North Korea and said its health system was the envy of the developing world. WHO director-general Margaret Chan said the country had "no lack of doctors and nurses".

Amnesty's report, The Crumbling State of Health Care in North Korea, was released on Thursday. It describes barely functioning hospitals, poor hygiene and epidemics made worse by widespread malnutrition. Many people were also too poor to pay for treatment, the report says. It also cites WHO figures indicating Pyongyang spends less than $1 per person on healthcare a year.

The WHO said Amnesty's report was based on a small sample of people who had left North Korea, some as long ago as 2001. "All the facts are from people who aren't in the country," WHO spokesman Paul Garwood said in Geneva. "There's no science in the research."


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