Global perspective Human stories

DPR of Korea: WHO chief calls for major investments in health sector

DPR of Korea: WHO chief calls for major investments in health sector

Dr. Brundtland
After suffering several years of food shortages and a range of health problems, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea needs substantial investments in its health sector, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing following a three-day visit to Pyongyang, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland said villages in the DPR of Korea lacked basic amenities like running water, electricity and essential drugs and equipment. "The country will need to give the health a higher priority and channel more of its own resources towards ensuring that basic health services can be provided, but it cannot do so on its own," she said, calling for international donors to support national efforts.

Dr. Brundtland went to the country to open a permanent WHO office in Pyongyang, where the agency has had an emergency coordination presence since 1997. "Having a WHO Representative permanently in Pyongyang will help us assess needs and monitor the concrete results of any assistance given," Dr. Brundtland said. "This will also assist bilateral and other donors to ensure that any assistance they give will be well coordinated and effectively spent."

In a related development, WHO today confirmed that the first shipment of life-saving tuberculosis (TB) medicines had arrived in the DPR of Korea this week. The drugs will make it possible to treat nearly 33,000 people suffering from TB. Until now, less than a third of those suffering from the disease had access to adequate treatment.

The supply of TB drugs is made available through the Global TB Drug Facility, part of WHO’s Stop TB partnership. In addition to DPR Korea, 11 other countries will receive support through the Facility – a global purchasing and distribution mechanism designed to expand access to high-quality TB drugs.