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At a glance: Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

Six million children in DPR Korea immunized against measles

© UNICEF DPR Korea/2007
An infant is vaccinated against measles as part of a massive child immunization campaign in DPR Korea.

SOUTH HAMYONG, DPR Korea, 29 March 2007 – A massive campaign to immunize children against measles in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been completed by the government with help from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Six million children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years were immunized between 16 and 18 March in the first phase of an emergency campaign targeting more than 16 million of the country’s 22 million people, said UNICEF’s Chief of Health and Nutrition in DPR Korea, Dr. Majeed Ezatullah.

The second phase, planned to start on 10 April, will aim to reach an additional 10.2 million people between 16 and 45 years of age, he said.

The huge undertaking comes in response to a recent measles outbreak that affected more than 3,500 people, most of them children. Two infants and two adults died and more than 1,000 people were hospitalized, according to reports.

Measles symptoms recognized

One mother, Han Pil Nyo, told a visiting UNICEF team at the South Hamgyong Provincial Paediatric Hospital that her six-month-old daughter Kim Il Gyong was fighting for her life after contracting measles-like symptoms.

© UNICEF DPR Korea/2007
UNICEF DPR Korea’s Dr. Majeed Ezatullah interviews Han Pil Nyo at the South Hamgyong Provincial Paediatric Hospital, where her baby daughter was being treated for measles.

“In February 2007, through local radio broadcasting, I got to know signs of a disease called measles,” she explained. “We were requested to report all cases of skin rash with fever to our household doctor as soon as possible.”

Ms. Han said she woke up one morning to find her daughter with a fever and covered with spots. She immediately took her child to a doctor, who sent them to the Hygienic Anti-Epidemic Station because the baby was developing lung problems and coughing. The doctors there transferred her to the South Hamgyong Provincial Paediatric Hospital.

Immediate response saves lives

“My daughter had meanwhile become very quiet, and sweat covered her face. She stopped drinking and coughed heavily,” said Ms. Han, wiping tears from her cheek. “I just hope that she will be all right and she will be strong enough by the time I go back home.”

One of the baby’s doctors added: “I am so glad that at the end of this week all children in my country will be protected and none of them will need to undergo what the little Kim is going through right now.”

Thanks to the immediate response of the government and UNICEF, which mobilized resources and flew a consignment of measles vaccine to DPR Korea within 14 days of the government’s declaration of a nationwide measles outbreak, millions of children under 15 have now been protected against measles.



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