Op-ed: Suspension of North Korea TB funding could lead to public health crisis

A decision by The Global Fund to suspend funding for malaria and tuberculosis (TB) projects in North Korea (DPRK, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) could lead to a major public health and humanitarian crisis that could take decades to reverse, according to a March 14, 2018 letter in The Lancet co-authored by Kee Park, MPH candidate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

While the Global Fund’s decision will hurt efforts to control both malaria and TB, the negative effect on TB control will be particularly profound, possibly leading to an explosion of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) in North Korea that could also affect public health in bordering countries like China and South Korea, according to Kee and co-authors Uzma Khan and Kwonjune Seung. They asked for transparency on The Global Fund’s decision-making process, conditions for restoration of the grants, and continuation of the grants so that more than 100,000 TB patients in North Korea can continue to receive their medications.

Kee is also a Paul Farmer Global Surgery Scholar with the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change at Harvard Medical School.

Read The Lancet letter: Open letter to The Global Fund about its decision to end DPRK grants