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UN agencies respond to health needs of blast victims in DPR of Korea

UN agencies respond to health needs of blast victims in DPR of Korea

A child receiving blood transfusion
United Nations humanitarian agencies are stepping up efforts to meet the health needs of people affected by the massive explosion last week near the Chinese border in the Democratic People’s Republic Korea (DPRK), which killed at least 161 people and injured 1,300 more.

International agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Federation of the Red Cross and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Caritas International are providing medical assistance and food to hospitals in the Ryongchon area, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

While noting overall medical treatment is being provided at a reasonable level, WHO reported that medical supplies such as eye treatments, topical creams, compresses for burns and certain antibiotics remain in short supply, OCHA said.

On Tuesday a WHO team visited four hospitals, where an estimated two-thirds of the injured are children. Patients suffer mainly from injuries to the face and head, burns and bruises. Meanwhile, UNICEF has delivered some 500 kilograms of therapeutic milk to Sinuiju hospital for patients unable to eat solid food.

WHO has recommended that normal health services be restored in Ryongchon as soon as possible, with emphasis placed on rebuilding the county hospital and health clinic. Support for health services will be needed well after the emergency phase of the response ends as some of the victims will suffer permanent disabilities and require rehabilitation services, OCHA said.

UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that education services are resumed as soon as possible. In addition to providing the physical infrastructure and school equipment, WHO has recommended that psychosocial support is also given to the children and the community as a whole.