Calgary doctor returns from North Korea

(Calgary, January 23, 2003) - Dr. Sandra Allaire recently returned home from an International Red Cross mission in North Korea. For the last eight months, Dr. Allaire has been managing a health program in the provinces of North Pyongan, South Pyongan and Chagang. The program includes distribution of drugs and medical equipment to 1,762 health institutions, training of health personnel, health promotion, community-based first aid training and water sanitation.
The last decade has seen a humanitarian crisis unfold in the country of 24 million people. North Korea's health system lacks some of most basic necessities, including medicine, medical equipment, heating, power, clean water and sanitation. A 1998 study showed that 16% of the population suffers from acute malnutrition and 62% from chronic malnutrition. "Some improvements to the health care system have occurred since 1998, but there still remains a great need for international humanitarian aid in North Korea," says Dr. Allaire. "A severe food shortage affects the life and health of a large part of the population. Children are born underweight and their growth is stunted. Sick people stay away from hospitals because there is no food to feed them there and no heat to keep them warm in winter."

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Federation) has been working in North Korea since 1995 and is one of the few humanitarian organizations that has maintained a constant presence in the country.

The Federation has an extensive health program in North Korea that includes:

  • distribution of medical kits to more than 1,700 medical clinics and hospitals,

  • training of local Red Cross staff, volunteers and government health staff in techniques on disease prevention and treatment,

  • distribution of coal to hospitals to help keep them operational during the coldest winter months,

  • monitoring of the medical kit distribution from central to county warehouses,

  • support for the Democratic Peoples' Republic of North Korea Red Cross community based first aid program, which includes over 300,000 local volunteers and more than 510 first aid posts located throughout the country, and

  • a water sanitation project to provide running water within rural communities.

In North Korea, the Federation delivers programs in three provinces and one municipality that have a population of over 6 million. The health program focuses on primary health care at the community level.

On January 29, Dr. Allaire will be returning to complete her mission in North Korea. This is Dr. Allaire's eighth overseas mission with the Canadian Red Cross. Since the early 1990s she has worked with the Red Cross in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Russia, Baltic Republics, Palestinian Territories, Turkey, Iraq and the United States.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Dr. Allaire, please call:

Suzanne Charest
Communications Officer
Tel: (613) 740-1928
Pager: (613) 594-7405

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