Monday, 29 April 2013

TUBERCULOSIS: North Korea: excellent long article

UNPA, NORTH KOREA—This village in rugged hills 2 hours south of Pyongyang has had it rough. Last summer, a typhoon wiped out most of its corn crop, and a second windstorm ripped stone tiles from roofs. Clinging to a slope facing the settlement, the Unpa tuberculosis (TB) rest home—a tidy gray concrete building with a red roof—took a battering. None of the staff members or 46 patients was harmed. But the hurricane-force gales shattered windows of a ward under construction that will house patients infected with multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB and sent its steel roof sailing down the valley. Surveying the damage, Heidi Linton, executive director of Christian Friends of Korea (CFK), a humanitarian organization based in Black Mountain, North Carolina, jots down a list of materials that CFK intends to purchase for the MDR wing. Occasional booms punctuate the stillness: Distant artillery fi re as North Korea prepares for what it sees as an inevitable military conflict with the South. As war fever reached a frenzied pitch last month, Linton and six other Americans were in the countryside with North Korean scientists and physicians, joining forces against a common enemy: tuberculosis. TB has skyrocketed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the past 20 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Famines in the mid-1990s ignited the epidemic; chronic malnutrition ever since has added fuel to the fi re. North Korea now has one of the highest TB incidences outside sub-Saharan Africa.

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