Thursday, May 17, 2007

President Chen makes last-minute appeal for Taiwan's WHO membership

In a videoconference May 11, ROC President Chen Shui-bian stressed that only when the World Health Organization closes the gap in the global disease prevention network by accepting Taiwan as a member can the health and lives of Taiwan's 23 million people and citizens of all WHO member states be fully protected.

Chen's contribution to the press conference, titled "Give Taiwan a Seat in the WHO," was filmed inside the Office of the President in Taipei and broadcast live to international journalists stationed in Geneva and others in Taiwan.

Citing statistics released by the WHO, Chen said that, by the end of March, 230 human cases of the H5N1 virus had been confirmed in six countries: China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Of these, 144 had been fatal, indicating a mortality rate of about 62 percent, Chen added.

Chen said that, being geographically close to these six countries, Taiwan had frequent exchanges and interactions with them. This included 1,183 flights between Taiwan and these countries every week. Moreover, with the Taipei Flight Information Region covering 13 major international air routes, nearly 200,000 flights arrived at or departed from Taiwan annually, with up to 25 million international and domestic passengers entering or exiting Taiwan, he said. These statistics showed that, should an epidemic break out in Taiwan, it could spread rapidly around the world and represent a severe threat to the planet's health and safety.

In order to prevent such a situation from arising, Taiwan needed to comprehensively and effectively participate in international public health networks and collaborate closely with other nations, Chen suggested.

Chen's opening remarks were followed by a Q&A session, in which Jean-Paul Hoareau de Montrose of the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle asked from Geneva whether Chen thought Taiwan had not yet contributed sufficient aid to poor people around the world.

Chen responded that, in addition to dispatching medical teams and assisting countries lacking medical resources, Taiwan's government and private sectors had provided health, medical and emergency humanitarian aid worth, according to conservative estimates, more than US$450 million over the last 10 years. Chen added that Taiwan would do more and try to make the world aware of its contributions to world disease prevention systems.

Ralph Jennings, Reuters Taipei correspondent, asked what new measures Taiwan would take in the future should the World Health Assembly, which would convene its 60th session May 14 to 23, reject Taiwan's bid for participation.

Mentioning that, in a May 9 article, The Economist was the first major publication to declare support for Taiwan's WHO bid, Chen replied that Taiwan would continue its efforts and hope to gain attention from the international community.

Three days later, on May 14, the WHA turned down Taiwan's first attempt to become a full WHO member using the name "Taiwan." During the second plenary meeting held in the afternoon, the WHA approved--by a vote of 148 to 17--a recommendation by its general committee to strike discussion of Taiwan's membership off the annual meeting's agenda.

Minister of Health Hou Sheng-mou, who was in Geneva to promote Taiwan's WHO bid campaign, acknowledged that Taiwan's attempt to become a full WHO member had failed, the Chinese-language China Times reported May 15. Nevertheless, he noted that important countries such as the United States and Japan, as well as the European Union, had expressed strong support for Taiwan's participation in the WHA as an observer and urged the world to pay attention to Taiwan's right to participate in international health affairs. "The world has not lessened its support for Taiwan," Hou added.

One example of support was a May 11 letter to the WHO from Mike Leavitt, U.S. secretary of health and human services, Taiwan's Central News Agency quoted Joseph Wu, Taiwan's representative to the United States, as saying May 12. Addressed to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, Leavitt's message urged the WHO to allow Taiwan to participate in technical-level meetings under the framework of the International Health Regulations and join the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, Wu said during a gathering with Chinese-language media in Washington, D.C.


Rachel Pollard said...

Coming from the West I am so surprised that any country can be excluded from a health organisation, and am further surprised that we are supporting this! China has got a worrying amount of political control over the West- as everyone wants to remain friends with the next big superpower, and growing leverage in the form of buying US dept.

I personally am worried about when other countries are going to restrain China in it's appauling human rights and animal rights programs. It's things like Taiwan, the apparent organ trade of Falun Gong, and the fur trade footage you displayed- which should effect the Olympic committee.

No political party seems to want to stand up to them. Are there any other petitions to do with the latter, that I can get involved with?

Dr. T said...

Hello Rachel,

Sorry for this late reply. I have come down with a terrible flu for several days...

There are some organizations in Taiwan that are engaged in Taiwan's WHO and UN bids. For your reference, they are as follows (hope you will find these websites useful):

1)Association of Clinical Research Professionals

2)Taiwan New Century Foundation

3)TAIUNA(The Taiwan United Nations Alliance)

Thank you and see you here next time~~