India sends $1 million worth of anti-tuberculosis medicine to North Korea

Indian embassy in Pyongyang says that the assistance was requested by the World Health Organization

The Indian government sent $1 million worth of anti-tuberculosis medicine to North Korea per a request from the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a press release issued by the Indian embassy in Pyongyang on Wednesday (July 22).

“The medical assistance is under the aegis of WHO’s ongoing anti-tuberculosis (TB) program in the DPRK,” the press release stated. The aid package was handed over to North Korean authorities by the Indian ambassador to the DPRK, Atul Malhari Gotsurve.

Photos released by the Indian embassy in Pyongyang also showed that the handover was made in the presence of a WHO Representative in DPRK, Edwin Salvador.

The supply of anti-tuberculosis medicine this week — which is India’s latest set of humanitarian assistance to North Korea — was sent because “India is sensitive to the shortage of medical supply” to the DPRK, the embassy stated.

The Indian embassy did not specify how the medicine was sent, but it is likely that the $1 million in aid arrived in the North Korean capital after a mandatory quarantine period upon entry into the country.

The press release did not specify when the cargo arrived in the North Korean territory, either.

Earlier this week, WHO Representative Edwin Salvador told journalists that there was an “increased volume of goods coming into the country” through the Nampho seaport and Sinuiju-Dandong routes during the period of July 2 to July 9 — which allegedly caused a spike in the number of loaders and laborers there.

According to Salvador, “medicines and medical products” were recently given “high priority” to cross the border.

NK News reached out to WHO and asked if any procedures involving international sanctions exemptions were involved with the delivery, but so far has not received a response.

While the U.N. 1718 Sanctions Committee restricts imports and exports that could “contribute to the development of the DPRK’s operational capabilities of its armed forces,” medicine is stipulated as an exception.

In May 2020, WHO and other partners — including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Stop TB Partnership — released a joint call to action to “scale up access to TB preventive treatment” around the world.

The U.N. organization was also granted international sanctions exemptions in June, which allowed the group to bring diagnostic equipment for “multidrug-resistant tuberculosis” into North Korea.

The Indian Embassy in Pyongyang’s press release did not provide further details on which pharmaceuticals it specifically procured for fighting tuberculosis.

However, photos published alongside the release show that the boxes stacked in the back may have come from at least two organizations that focus on medicine provision. Two logos seen from the photos indicate that India may have procured the items through the Global Drug Facility (GDF) under the Stop TB Partnership and the International Dispensary Association (IDA).

While India is one of several countries that still have diplomatic personnel residing in Pyongyang, multiple foreign embassies in the North were evacuated this year because Pyongyang’s COVID-19 lockdown measures hindered their activities.

Source: NK News

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By Jeongmin Kim

Published: July 22, 2020, 5:23 p.m.

Last updated: July 25, 2020, 4:27 p.m.

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