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(LEAD) U.S. non-profit group to build tuberculosis center in Pyongyang

All Headlines 16:35 May 04, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES with comment by Christian Friends of Korea and WHO data)

SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. non-profit group plans to build a tuberculosis treatment training center in Pyongyang by the end of this year, a report said Saturday.

Christian Friends of Korea (CFK), the non-governmental organization, will visit the North Korean capital in mid-May and start construction work for the center designed to train medical doctors and researchers for tuberculosis treatment and prevention in the North, the Washington, D.C.-based Radio Free Asia reported. The CFK will send a team of 10 technicians and officials for the project, it said.

The construction of the center will be completed at the end of this year, and during the coming visit, the CFK will inspect other medical aid projects it is running in the North, the media outlet quoted the group's spokesman as saying.

The training center is designed to "expand training efforts begun at the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory," the Christian Friends of Korea said in a comment posted on its Web site, noting training is currently being done in a cramped hallway at the lab.

The CFK is assisting about 29 medical clinics in the North, including a tuberculosis treatment center in Kaesong, near the border with South Korea.

The report came two weeks after Eugene Bell, a charity group in South Korea, shipped 678 million won (US$618,000) worth of tuberculosis medicine in medical aid to the North. It was the first shipment of humanitarian aid by a South Korean entity to North Korea since President Park Geun-hye took office in Seoul in February.

North Korea relies on foreign medical assistance as its hospitals are often ill-equipped to treat patients due to a lack of medicines and other supplies.

The World Health Organization estimated on its Web site that about 1,600 North Koreans died of tuberculosis in 2011, down from about 1,900 in 2010.


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