September 18, 2006â€"Our partner operating projects in North Korea reports the humanitarian crisis in the country remains serious and will likely worsen as winter approaches.
Over the years, North Korea has garnered world attention for its devastating humanitarian crisis, and most recently for disputes over its nuclear weapons program. Less known is the news of Typhoon Ewiniar that struck South and North Korea this July. It devastated the central part of North Korea, causing extensive flood damage in several provinces. In addition to the severe infrastructure damage, hundreds of people were killed and thousands more left homeless. Our local partners report that the impoverished people of this nation, already faced with overwhelming poverty, will likely see no relief soon.
The United Nations warns that millions could die of starvation this year if the food shortage in North Korea is not eased, and in a recent visit to the country by two Partners International staff, local officials quietly confirmed the food situation remains critical in many areas.
In coordination with a partner based across the border in China, Partners International assists six cooperative farms in North Korea, each with the capacity to provide 80 tons of rice, and is also providing water wells and equipping tuberculosis clinics with medicine and supplies.
The following is an edited report from our staff:
We are thankful to those who have given generously toward our food program and to those who have helped some 40,000 to 50,000 patients suffering from tuberculosis throughout the country. Many of the ill are young (around 25-35 years old) and of prime working age. They are particularly vulnerable in hard times like this in North Korea. Their chronic illness causes them to be weak and unable to do the physical work to produce food. In addition, they are stigmatized and often rejected by their communities who are worried about contracting the disease.
Thirty percent of the patients are young women and many are single. Stricken with tuberculosis, they often try to cover this up, not seeking treatment and hoping the illness will just go away. They know they will not find husbands if their disease is made known. Praise the Lord that through our program, a number of clinics are receiving medicine. Many patients are responding well to treatment and about 80 percent of them are able to go home within 6 to 8 months of treatment. Unfortunately, the other 20 percent often develop a multiple resistant strain of TB that requires special and stronger medical treatment.
To help the people produce more food, gifts of agricultural machinery, fertilizer, and transportation equipment are being sent through our partners not only to the farms but also to the tuberculosis clinics. Surprisingly, the hospital staff work at growing food to feed their patients!
Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for God's mercy and provision for the people of North Korea, and for the door to remain open for our local partners to minister to the great needs of the people.