WHO Director-General returns from Democratic People's Republic of Korea country visit
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO; Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Deputy Regional Director, South-East Asia Region and Mr Fu Cong, Adviser to Director-General participated in the visit from 26-28 April to discuss collaboration with Government officials and UN agencies.
Telemedicine facilities established with WHO support
During the visit Dr Chan with her team visited Pyongyang Maternity Hospital, telemedicine facilities, National TB Institute and Ryongsan Ri People's Hospital. She also held meetings and discussions with key officials including the President of Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Ministers of Health and Foreign Affairs and other senior officials and UN partner agencies accredited in DPR Korea.
During her visit to the Kim Man Yu hospital and the opening of the telemedicine facilities established with WHO support, she highlighted the importance of the use of information and communication technology in improving access and quality of health services especially in remote areas and encouraged expanding the scope of facilities for training of health workers and disease surveillance.
Dr Chan acknowledged the prominent position of primary health care in the health system and noted the large number of household doctors offering services at facilities and through reaching out to families. She emphasized the importance of multi-sector and multi-stakeholders engagement in health.
Despite the success, challenges remain. Dr Chan stressed that the health system requires further strengthening to sustain universal coverage to improve the quality of service. She noted that more investments are required to upgrade infrastructure and equipment, to ensure adequate supply of medicines and other commodities, and to address the correct skill mix of the health workforce. She said that greater emphasis is needed on nutrition and lifestyle related disease like cancers, heart diseases and stroke, along with more efforts in tobacco control.
During her meeting with key senior officials, she advocated the need for increase in allocation of domestic budget for health programmes.
Increased flexibility of the Government
She acknowledged that increased flexibility of the Government in engaging with international health partners such as the Global Fund and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has resulted in recent programme funding from these donors. She emphasized the importance of transparency, quality of data and accountability in ensuring continued funding from international sources.
WHO's project continues to act as a bridge
She also acknowledged the unique role that WHO's project to improve the health of women and children continues to act as a bridge for dialogue and trust building.
She recognized the huge funding gaps and agreed to work with development partners to mobilize resources for the health sector to sustain and expand critical health interventions.
Dr Chan also underlined the important role UN agencies are playing in DPR Korea including continued engagement in humanitarian assistance, and said additional efforts are needed in this area.