Coreia do Norte, Daily NK, Inglês


countryside, rural
FILE PHOTO: A rural area of South Pyongan Province (Daily NK)

The infant mortality rate in North Korea’s rural areas is higher than in the country’s cities, a source in the country told Daily NK recently.

“Although the percentage of women having children in rural areas of North Hamgyong Province such as Yonsa County and Orang County is lower than in the past, it’s still higher than in the cities. If only one in five married women has children in the cities, the rate is two in five in the countryside,” a source in the province told Daily NK on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The reason why more rural women have children is because they can’t afford to get an intrauterine device [IUD] or an abortion. This leads to a lot of unwanted children being born, and many of them are abandoned,” the source said.

When financially strapped rural women abandon their children, the infants often end up dead, the source said.

“People roaming the forests to gather edible herbs or cut firewood sometimes come across abandoned infants wrapped in blankets or clothes. More dead babies can be seen now than in the past, perhaps because women have a hard time just feeding themselves these days,” the source said.

Malnutrition of mothers a major cause of death for infants

There have also been recent cases of new mothers and infants dying from malnutrition and lack of proper medical care, the source said.

According to the source, a woman in her thirties recently died during childbirth in Yonsa County. The woman had asked the doctor to deliver the baby at home rather than at the poorly equipped hospital. But she suffered severe hemorrhaging during childbirth and eventually died.

In Orang County, a woman in her early 30s lost her baby in early April. The child’s death was found to be a direct result of the mother’s malnutrition, as she was unable to eat properly during her pregnancy due to financial difficulties. The mother was unable to produce breast milk, and the baby died just two months after birth.

“People in rural areas can’t count on hospitals for help because the medical facilities are worse than in the cities. And as it becomes harder to make a living, new mothers can’t get the nutrients they need, which often endangers the lives of their babies,” the source said.

“People criticize the government for asking us to have a lot of children without doing anything to address these issues. I’m not sure if these things are reported to the top [i.e., the central government], but if the state is really concerned about the declining birth rate, it must take special measures for the health of mothers and newborns,” she added.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to [email protected].

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