03/24/2017, 14.35
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Women and children are the main victims of North Korea’s humanitarian emergency

About 27.9 per cent of North Korean children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, 4 per cent from acute malnutrition. About 23.3 per cent of women in reproductive age are also malnourished. About 31.2 per cent of pregnant women are anemic and 5 per cent of children are born underweight. Malnutrition is aggravated by poor health care and the lack of running water, sanitation and hygiene services. “The undernourishment of the people of North Korea is a very serious situation,” expert tells AsiaNews. “A whole generation has stunted growth.”

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Malnutrition among children and women of reproductive age in North Korea is a nationwide problem, this according to a UN report on North Korea’s humanitarian emergency.

“Most children under 24 months, and 50 per cent of pregnant and breastfeeding women have insufficient dietary diversity leading to micronutrient deficiencies and unacceptably high prevalence of chronic and acute malnutrition.

“Appropriate nutritional and health care for mother and child from conception to a child’s second birthday significantly reduces the risk of mortality and produces lifetime benefits for infants, such as healthy growth and brain development, and better educational performance. However, the impact of sub-optimum nutrition during this ‘window of opportunity’ in life is often irreversible.

“Dietary quality for many people in DPRK is poor, with limited consumption of foods that are rich in protein, fat and micronutrients, resulting in problems related to undernourishment including physical and cognitive development concerns.

“Nutrition Survey, conducted in 2012, the prevalence of chronic malnutrition (stunting) among under-five children was 27.9 per cent and the prevalence of acute malnutrition (wasting) was four per cent. In addition, 23.3 per cent of women of reproductive age were also malnourished.

“A 2014 Ministry of Public Health Report noted that 31.2 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic and the prevalence of low birth weight was five per cent. In addition to a lack of access to diverse and sufficient food, undernutrition is exacerbated by inadequate health and water, sanitation and hygiene services.”

According to the Socio-Economic, Demographic and Health Survey (2014), “the Infant Mortality Rate in DPRK is estimated at 13.7/1,000, Under-Five Mortality Rate at 16.2/1,000, and Maternal Mortality Rate at 66/100,000 live births; well above the global averages. [. . .] There are also disparities in child mortality rates between urban and rural areas as well as amongst provinces, with under-five mortality rates 1.2 times higher in rural areas compared to urban areas.

“Those most at risk from the consequences of a lack of access to health care include under-five children, pregnant women, people living with disabilities and the elderly. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the two main causes of death amongst under-five children in DPRK. Diarrhoea is mainly caused by lack of safe drinking water, poor sanitation and hygiene practices, and is also a contributing factor for childhood pneumonia and malnutrition. The most common cause of maternal mortality in DPRK is post-partum hemorrhage, with women who give birth at home most at risk. Approximately nine per cent of all women still deliver at home, with 67 per cent of maternal deaths occurring amongst women who deliver at home.

AsiaNews spoke to an expert with a long experience with North Korea to discuss its health emergency, especially of malnutrition.

“The undernourishment of the people of North Korea is a very serious situation,” he said. “A whole generation has stunted growth. But in the last few years there has been some improvement in the lives of the people. The North Korean Government has allowed the farmers to plant plots near their house and the farmers are able to sell some of their produce on the open market.

“Last year was one of the best harvests that they have had, China though continues to supply the North Korean government with food supplies. More and more sanctions could bring down the economy and cause a famine.”

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