Thursday, March 10, 2016

Common Questions Asked About Dongdaewon

How do we know the North Koreans don't misuse the money?
Eugene Bell send NO money to North Korea.  The money raised buys medicine.  Each patient has sputum samples taken to find out which drugs they are resistant to.  A drug program is then tailor made for that specific patient, giving them the drugs that they will best respond to.

How do we know that the patients get their medicine?
Dr Seung and Dr Linton checking off medication supplies
Eugene Bell run a strict monitoring program and insist on visiting each centre that they work with.  They look at all patient records.  Each centre gets a list of the supplies coming and all supplies are checked.  Each patient knows what they should get as well.  Each patient is tested every six months - if they do not take their medicine, they will not get well.  Additionally, each patient is photographed which helps identify patients and provides a visual record of how they are doing.  The fact that patients are graduating from the MDR program, cured of TB shows that they are getting their medicine.

Why don't we send clothing and other supplies?
There are limits to what things can go into North Korea.  The North Koreans can get clothing. However, medicine is in extremely short supply and this is what there is a desperate need for.

Why don't we treat regular TB patients when they are so much cheaper 
and we could help more people?
Since 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) has committed to providing DOTs meds for North Korea.  MDR is a growing concern.  The WHO have a plan to pick up 50 MDR patients over a five year period.  Eugene Bell currently have over 500 MDR patients on their books, with many more people desperate for treatment.  This is currently where the need is greatest.

Aren't We Violating UN Sanctions and going against the SK Government helping North Korea?
UN Sanctions have a carve out for humanitarian causes.  In recent sanctions imposed, the UN stated 
the new measures are not intended to have "adverse humanitarian consequences" for civilians, the majority of whom face economic hardships and food shortages.
Ceasing support of medicine for our TB patients at Dongdaewon would directly counter the intent of the UN resolution, as it would have adverse humanitarian consequences for civilians.  Currently the UN is spending a little over 100 million annually on humanitarian aid (South Korean UN Ambassador Oh Joon), including releasing an additional 8 million just last month (UNOCHA, 2016).

EBF work closely with the South Korean government (who issue their export permits for the medicine) and the North Korean Ministry of Health to make their program happen. 

Eugene Bell have enough money.  Why do we still support them?
At every center Eugene Bell visits, people appear out of nowhere, desperate to get on a MDR treatment program because they have failed DOTs treatment multiple times.  For every patient that EB accepts, they have to guarantee coverage of medicine for the life of treatment, which takes around 18 months.   This can cost around $USD5000 per patient.  It is heartbreaking to have to take some patients and leave others because there are not the resources to provide for medication.  MDR continues to grow and EB is one of the few organizations successfully working with this problem in North Korea.  The more resources they have, the more patients that can be treated.  Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing to leave a clinic knowing that you could help all those who needed it?!  

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