North Korea’s infant mortality is higher than that of South Korea by eight folds, but the number is falling rapidly with a rising newborn vaccination rate in the North, a report showed.
Cho Sung-eun, head of the Center for Reunified Korea Social Security Research at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA), wrote a report titled, “Results of the analysis on projects supporting young children in North Korea and future tasks.”
According to his report, the North’s mortality rate among children aged five and less declined from 92.3 per 1,000 in 1998, to 41.4 in 2009, and to 24 in 2017. That of the South marked 3 per 1,000 in 2017.
The report attributed the decreased mortality rate in the North to an increased vaccination rate among North Korean children through international aids.
The tuberculosis vaccination rate among North Korean newborns stood at about 78 percent in 2000. However, the rate went up to 94 percent in 2005 and further rose to 97-98 percent in 2010, near the rate of the South at 99.8 percent.
In the North, the third vaccination rate for DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) among babies aged one and less was only 50 percent in 2000 but rose to 79 percent in 2005 and 96 percent in 2016, which was slightly lower than the South’s 99.8 percent.
The measles vaccination rate of children under 2 years old was 67 percent in 1995 but surged to 96 percent in 2005, and to 99 percent in 2016, which was similar to that of the South at 99.6 percent.
The North had a high rate of breastfeeding. According to the U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF)’s report titled “The State of the World’s Children 2016,” 69 percent of the North Korean infants younger than six months old had complete breastfeeding, ranking seventh among 136 countries surveyed.
Cho said that the South’s assistance for the North should go beyond basic health support and emergency relief. Instead, the aid should be more diverse to include nutrition support, education, and welfare improvement for the healthy development of North Korean infants and children, he said.
“The South should provide continuous support to improve the health and nutritional status of North Korean young children, and further develop and implement comprehensive child support measures based on the quality of life of children,” Cho said. He added that it was desirable the South come up with a long-term vision and goal, such as a 10-year plan to improve health and welfare of both South and North Korean children.
“Based on such strategy and policy, the central government, local governments, and private sector should expand cooperation opportunities and spur each other’s supplementary roles,” Cho said.
He went on to say that North Korean children’s development and growth will become essential as a significant force in the future society on the Korean Peninsula. “We must keep paying attention to them regarding long-term investment,” Cho said.