|© UNICEF/ HQ04-0521/Horner|
|Two women hold their sick toddlers in the paediatric ward of the Yonsan County Hospital, North Hwanghae Province, DPR Korea. UNICEF provides the hospital with equipment, medicine and technical support.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, USA, 15 March 2007 – UNICEF’s Representative in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Gopalan Balagopal, recently held an informal meeting at UNICEF headquarters in New York, highlighting the challenges facing the country’s women and children.
As the largest UN agency working in DPR Korea, UNICEF is currently active in six of its nine provinces with programmes focusing on nutrition, health and education, as well as safe water and sanitation.
“For me and members of my team, I think the most satisfying part of being in DPR Korea is that we realize UNICEF’s presence really makes a difference for children,” said Mr. Balagopal.
Potential nutrition crisis
“We have just launched our new three-year country programme,” building on developments from the past few years, he added. “The work we have been doing has helped improve the nutritional status of both children and women…. This is our central focus.”
Mr. Balagopal explained that because of serious flooding last year, there could be a shortfall of 1 million tonnes of grain, accounting for a fifth of DPR Korea’s total food requirement in 2007. Meanwhile, far less food is coming into the country because of the government’s decision not to accept humanitarian aid, he said.
UNICEF has urged its partners and donors to renew their support and help the population, particularly women and children, cope with this potential nutrition crisis.
Immunization and education
In the area of health, Mr. Balagopal pointed out that DPR Korea now has an immunization rate of 97 per cent, one of the highest in the East Asia and Pacific region. “We provide vitamin supplements and treat children who suffer from acute malnutrition,” he said. “UNICEF is also providing a range of essential drugs to hospitals, as many hospitals in DPR Korea are operating on tight budgets.”
Commenting on educational development, Mr. Balagopal noted that for the first time last year, DPR Korea participated in the East Asia Learning Assessment, a regional survey on the quality of teaching and learning.
“The results were presented at a regional meeting in Shanghai, China,” he reported. “For DPR Korea, there were two areas that needed improvement. One was teacher training, and the second was curriculum revision.
“And UNICEF is very much engaged with interventions in both areas,” concluded Mr. Balagopal.