WHO's Dr Chan praises North Korea: regime let 2.5 million people starve to death

May Day Greetings from the Head of the World Health Organization!

by Joshua Stanton

Tuesday, 04 May 2010

It could have been worse, I suppose, had I awakened this morning to the clatter of panzerkampfwagens rolling through the D.C. suburbs blaring the Horst Wessel Lied from loudspeakers. But if the prospect of the U.N. as Government of Earth horrifies you any less, get a load of what Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization, holds up as the very model of a peachy health care system:

UN health agency chief Margaret Chan said on Friday after a visit to North Korea that the country’s health system would be the envy for most developing countries although it faced “challenges”. “Based on what I have seen, I can tell you they have something that most other developing countries would envy,” she told journalists, despite reports of renewed famine in parts of the country.

“To give you a couple of examples, DPRK has no lack of doctors and nurses, as we see in other developing countries, most of their doctors and nurse have migrated,” the director general of the World Health Organisation said. She also highlighted its “very elaborate health infrastructure” extending to a district network of household doctors, she added. [AFP]

It isn’t a revelation to me that factual ignorance and moral retardation prevail at the United Nations, but Chan may have lowered the bar.  Speaking of a regime that willfully allowed up to 2.5 million of its people to starve to death, while the survivors merely watched their loved ones starve to death, Chan concedes that all is not perfect in North Korea:

“I can see perhaps that malnutrition is an area where the government has to pay attention, especially in pregnant women and young children,” Chan said in a telephone news conference about her visit.

Then, citing official North Korean statistics without apparent irony or suspicion …

[S]he praised the extent of child vaccination in the country, citing coverage of about 90 percent, as well as the way it tackled tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases.

But there were some qualifications:

Chan later accepted that what she saw in Pyongyang “might not be representative of the rest of the country.

To say the least. Chan clearly wasn’t led to the hospital in Chongjin where the doctors, denied any medicines or modern equipment, spent large parts of their days gathering, drying, and grinding herbs to make “traditional” medicines, but who could seldom do more for their starving patients than watch them die. She wasn’t guided to the black markets where people buy the medicine (or as a substitute,crystal meth) that their government refuses to provide for them while it spends its money on luxuries for its Inner Party. Or to any of the schools that had to close during the most recent of North Korea’s frequent epidemics of H1N1, tuberculosis (regular and drug-resistant), typhoid, paratyphoid, typhus, or scarlet fever, despite the regime’s vaunted excellence at vaccinating children. Or any of the places the German doctor Norbert Vollertsen described in this Wall Street Journal op-ed:

Though I was assigned to a children’s hospital in Pyongsong, 10 miles north of Pyongyang, I visited many hospitals in other provinces. In each one, I found unbelievable deprivation. Crude rubber drips were hooked to patients from old beer bottles. There were no bandages, scalpels, antibiotics or operation facilities, only broken beds on which children lay waiting to die. The children were emaciated, stunted, mute, emotionally depleted. [….]

Once, I had an opportunity to visit my driver, a member of the military, who was in the hospital because of injury. The authorities were vexed that I wanted to see him, but I was able to overcome objections. As was my custom on hospital visits, I took bandages and antibiotics–basics. On this occasion, I was embarrassed to see that, unlike any other hospital I visited, this one looked as modern as any in Germany. It was equipped with the latest medical apparatus, such as magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, electrocardiograms and X-ray machines. There are two worlds in North Korea, one for the senior military and the elite; and a living hell for the rest.

Ms. Chan’s belief in the illusion through which she was paraded is, quite simply, beyond belief. Her gullibility is in jarring contrast to North Korea’s refusal to so much as let the U.N.’s Human Rights Special Rapporteur, Vitit Muntarbhorn through his borders.

He also highlighted reports that the regime had tightened its grip on food distribution by prohibiting smallholders and markets. “The situation concerning food shortages in 2009 — with impact on 2010 — remains severe,” especially in the northeast, he added. Muntarbhorn stressed that “the problem is not simply food shortage but distorted food distribution, from which the elite benefits.” [AFP]

“Logically, it would seem that if the authorities are not able to satisfy the basic needs of the people, the people should be able to participate in activities which can help generate income so as to enable them to produce or buy their own food as well as sustain their livelihood,” he told the council. [Reuters]

The U.N. will be a much poorer (and possibly bankrupt) place next month when Muntarbhorn’s mandate expires and he leaves behind an institution that will quickly forget his calls to action.  Chan, no doubt, has a long and promising career ahead of her; her term doesn’t end until 2012.  This, children, is why the very term “United Nations” has become an oxymoron.

Update: Oh my God. Please tell me she was misquoted:

Chan spent most of her brief visit in Pyongyang, and she said that from what she had seen there most people had the same height and weight as Asians in other countries, while there were no signs of the obesity emerging in some parts of Asia.

Joshua Stanton blogs at OneFreeKorea.



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