Young children die of malnutrition and suspected COVID-19 symptoms in Yanggang Province

FILE PHOTO: In this July 2018 photo, North Korean children play on a playground in Namyang, North Hamgyong Province. (Daily NK)

Young children in agricultural regions of Yanggang Province are dying of malnutrition and suspected COVID-19 symptoms, Daily NK has learned.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Wednesday that there has been a string of deaths in some of the province’s regions, including Samsu County.

“A growing number of people are suffering from high fever, on top of poor nutrition because they haven’t eaten properly,” he said.

In particular, young children aged three to five figure prominently in the death rolls. The source said with children suffering malnutrition and symptoms of COVID-19, many are dying because they receive no medication.

North Korea imposed a nationwide ban on inter-regional travel after officially declaring a domestic outbreak of COVID-19 on May 12. In some China-North Korea border regions, people have even been banned from leaving their homes for certain periods.

Some people say that in logistically disadvantaged agricultural regions, these measures are essentially death sentences.

Above all else, the continued lockdown of Hyesan, the commercial hub of Yanggang Province, is reported preventing medicine and foodstuffs from reaching agricultural regions.

This is to say, residents of agricultural villages survive on goods purchased from specialized merchants in the cities, but with continued lockdowns disrupting the flow of goods, the lives of children in agricultural villages are now at risk.

According to the source, a total of eight children between the ages of three and five have died this month in certain agricultural regions, including Samsu County, Kapsan County and Pungso County. The source said a growing number of children are dying of malnutrition and fever amid slow or non-existence distributions of food and medicine.

“The government is saying that the COVID-19 numbers are stabilizing, but in fact, there are continuous deaths in agricultural villages due to malnutrition and high fever,” the source said. “It seems the government is providing drugs only to Pyongyang residents, and doesn’t care about the health of people in the provinces.”

The source further reported that people in Yanggang Province are suffering greatly from lack of medicine, not to mention food shortages from the border closure and travel bans.

“Because of this, locals are waiting for the government to quickly lift the border closure,” he added.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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