Hyesan, Ryanggang Province in August 2018
FILE PHOTO: In this August 2018 photo, apartments can be seen in Hyesan, Yanggang Province. (Daily NK)

Amid the spread of COVID-19 in North Korea, medicine shortages are making life difficult for many people in Hyesan, Daily NK has learned.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on May 31 that “as the [COVID-19] pandemic spreads rapidly throughout the country, many people are struggling with high fever, but suffer even more because they can’t afford to buy medication.”

According to the source, while North Korean authorities are making efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the country is facing a shortage of fever medicine. As a result, prices have soared, making medicine inaccessible to many people in the country. 

“In the Songbong District of Hyesan, people can’t go outside because there is a fever patient in almost every house. On top of that, the price of fever reducers is so high that people can’t even buy them,” the source said. 

In Hyesan, one fever reducer (one pill) used to go for around KPW 300 in Hyesan, but with the recent increase in people suffering from fevers, the price soared to KPW 500-700 in just a few days. As of May 20, the price had apparently increased even further to about KPW 700-1,000 a pill.

“People with fever symptoms are suffering even more as the price of 10 fever-reducing pills equals that of 2kg of rice,” the source said. 

“A woman from Songbong District in Hyesan and her teenage daughter are suffering from high fevers of more than 40 degrees Celsius. While the woman managed to get a hold of 10 pills of fever reducing medication, they are not doing well,” the source said. “The woman just wanted to buy an apple for her daughter to eat, but didn’t even have the money for that. She broke down crying, and her neighbors all cried along with her.

“Poor people are dying after having to resort to reducing their fever with cold water because they can’t buy medication,” the source continued, adding, “This is the reality faced by people with fevers in Hyesan.”

Translated by Vilde Olaussen. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.