North’s hospitals decrepit: Amnesty

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North’s hospitals decrepit: Amnesty

North Korea’s health care system is in a “dire state,” and amputations are carried out without the use of anesthesia, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

“The Crumbling State of Health Care in North Korea” is based on interviews with North Koreans living abroad and health workers who describe the use of unsterilized needles. Problems of malnutrition exacerbate challenges for the state-run system during epidemics, the report said.

The country is under a series of United Nations trade sanctions for its nuclear weapons program and is suffering from worsening food shortages since a botched currency revaluation last year. North Korea spends less than $1 per person annually on health care, less than any other country, according to World Health Organization figures cited in the report.

“The government’s failure to provide basic education about using medication is especially worrying as North Korea fights a tuberculosis epidemic,” said Catherine Barber, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for Asia Pacific.

The report also described how patients since the 1990s have paid doctors for services intended to be free with cigarettes, alcohol or food.

“The North Korean people are in critical need of medical and food aid,” Barber said. “It is crucial that aid to North Korea is not used as a political football by donor countries.”

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