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A malnourished boy eats vitamin- and mineral-enriched food at a North Korean hospital. Photo: Gerald Bourken / AFP / Getty Images

Citizens of North Korea are living with levels of disease and malnutrition seldom seen in modern Asia, according to newly reported 2016 data from the Global Burden of Disease Study, an international program of public health researchers.

Among the country's 26 million people:

  • One in three have at least one nutritional disorder, most commonly deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, and protein.
  • One in four live with latent tuberculosis.
  • More than three million harbor intestinal worms, like those found in a recent military defector, which siphon off essential nutrients and are particularly dangerous in children, stunting growth and cognitive development.
  • Around three million are infected with the hepatitis B virus.
  • More than a million develop pneumonia every year.

Why it matters: North Korea's population is being decimated by infection and malnutrition. Without intervention, its public health crisis will only exacerbate the economic strains of international sanctions and lead to more widespread suffering.

What's next: Drugs and vaccines are available for most of the diseases afflicting the country. International health agencies such as the WHO and Gavi are working to promote access to essential medicines, but Kim Jong-un's threats of nuclear war continue to complicate intervention efforts.

Peter Hotez is a professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, where he holds the Texas Children's Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics.

Go deeper

Updated 42 seconds ago - Economy & Business

World Bank: Gap between rich and poor countries is widening

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the last two decades, incomes in poorer countries were catching up to rich countries. The pandemic economy of the 2020s may reverse the trend, the World Bank warns in a new report.

Why it matters: Falling inequality between countries has been one of the most positive trends of the 21st century. If it reverses, it implies more human suffering and geopolitical instability.

Updated 38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas — Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. Economy: Report: World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during pandemicAmerica's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  7. Variant tracker

Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19

Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

State of play: Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said in a statement that Milley — who is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot — is experiencing "very minor symptoms" and is "working remotely and isolating himself."

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