Published: Wednesday 31 March 1999

According to United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) official, David Morton, the continuing famine in North Korea is comparable to the Ethiopian famine in the mid-1980s. He said large-scale assistance would be needed for at least three years to turn the situation around. The food disaster has produced a generation of stunted and dramatically underweight children and has forced scores of adults to leave their jobs in search of nourishment, said Morton. A survey conducted by international aid donors in 1998 found 62 per cent of the children under the age of seven suffering from mental development problems.

United Nations scientists have found that a simple, relatively inexpensive drug treatment can significantly reduce mother-to-infant transmission of the AIDS virus. According to Joseph Saba, a UN official in the AIDS program, the drug therapy will cost up to US $1,000 or more. This requires taking a pill twice a day. Each pill contains two standard anti-HIV drugs, AZT or zidovudine, and 3TC or lamivudine. Saba said the drug may be far too expensive and complicated for developing countries, but the drug will go a long way in reducing infection among new born babies.

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