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Published on 27 November, 2007

North Korea opens doors to medical ministry

North Korea (MNN) — North Korea appears to be opening doors to the outside world as they struggle to cope with the effects of poverty. 

According to published reports, the International Red Cross will be increasing its medical program by more than 50 percent to prevent the collapse of the country's health care system.  Two years of flooding and a year of drought have contributed to a public health disaster in the making.

Few medical facilities have any equipment at all. If a national disease outbreak were to occur, medical personnel would have no way to cope. Outside medical authorities fear years of malnutrition have made the North Korean population especially vulnerable to epidemics.

International Aid's Mark Heydenburg says they're partnering with a group that has been granted access because of their medical work. On this trip, the team focused on improving the inadequacy at some of the hospitals. "Not one of the hospitals out of the four I visited had running water. Can you imagine not having restroom facilities in a hospital? Not one of these hospitals had running water, and most of them only had sporadic power of about three hours a day."

Heydenburg says, "We ran electrical lines, put in generators, put new panels in, surgery lights and medical devices."

I-A's Medical Equipment Services (MES) functions as a critical link between equipment donors and recipients. The team furnishes hospitals and clinics with appropriate medical equipment, operational manuals, and technical and field support.

This is one area that opens to an avenue of ministry, Heydenburg notes. "I was also able to spend quite a bit of time with the physicians and nurses and share how to operate these machines, and in many ways, indirectly witness for Christ."

Pray that the relationships developed on this trip would lead to more opportunities for I-A's teams to share not only their love and concern but also the hope of Christ with those they help in North Korea.

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