Handicap International has been working in North Korea for the past 14 years. Its goals are to support the inclusion of children with disabilities in education, provide access to rehabilitation and orthopaedic fitting services, and promote the rights of people with disabilities.
© Myriam Abord / Handicap International
Although the country is politically isolated, Handicap International has been working in North Korea since 2001. Today, the organisation runs projects in Pyongyang and six provinces. Its three spheres of action are to ensure children with disabilities have access to education, to improve rehabilitation services and to support the inclusion of people with disabilities in society.
Handicap International’s work in the country began when the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled requested help in developing its operations. The goal was to improve the aid provided to people with disabilities in a country that has long been isolated. Today, the organisation continues to support this federation in its efforts to provide quality services to disabled people and build an effective network, campaigning for the recognition of disability rights. In 2003, Handicap International supported the adoption of the Law on Protection of Disabled People, which was recently amended in 2014.
Furthermore, in order to improve children with disabilities’ access to education, Handicap International supports improved living conditions and quality of education for children with a hearing or visual impairment in six special schools. To this end, the organisation provides teacher training, undertakes renovation work in these schools and supplies educational resources.
In order to improve rehabilitation services, it also offers direct support to a number of orthopaedic fitting centres and clinics. The aid provided varies according to the need: it may involve renovating premises, training physiotherapists and orthopaedic technicians or supplying equipment and consumables. In addition, the organisation of mobile camps has made it possible to extend provision of rehabilitation services to remote regions.
North Korea is one of the poorest countries in Asia.
At the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Korean peninsula was divided into two states: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
Since the significant support provided by countries in Eastern Europe came to an end, the country has been even more isolated and the everyday lives of the North Korean population are in crisis, both from a social and a health perspective. A shortage of medicines, energy supplies and a chronic lack of infrastructure make this one of the poorest countries in Asia.