Monday, August 27, 2007

Key Issue of Non-Traditional Security Threats: WHO Warns of Global Epidemic Risk

According to BBC news, the World Health Organization annual report stresses that infectious diseases are spreading faster than ever and new diseases are emerging at the “historically unprecedented” rate. With about 2.1 billion airline passengers flying each year, there is a high risk of major epidemic such as AIDS, SARS or Ebola fever.

The WHO urges increased efforts to combat disease outbreaks, and sharing of virus data, skills and technology is crucial to help develop vaccines and curb viruses like avian flu. The WHO also warns that without global collaboration, there could be devastating impacts on the global economy and international security.

Recently, Jakarta refused to share its samples with the WHO, and China only started sharing its H5N1 samples in June. Thus, the WHO report urges that it is necessary for governments to be open about disease outbreaks.

“Co-operation is crucial to combat outbreaks, and given today’s universal vulnerability to these threats, better security calls for global solidarity,” the
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan says in an introduction to the report.

Ironically, we need to address here again that so far China has blocked Taiwan’s six attempts to join the WHO. Without having full membership in the WHO, it is very difficult for Taiwan to cope with the emerging non-traditional security threat mentioned above.

When WHO Director-General Margaret Chan calls for global cooperation, she should first remind herself of the fact that Taiwan’s applying for membership in the WHO is a humanitarian but not a political issue.

Due to China’s claim over Taiwan, Taiwan’s health authorities cannot attend any WHO-sponsored meetings to discuss new ways to diagnose, monitor and control diseases. Even in emergencies and epidemics of infectious diseases, Taiwan is not allowed to co-ordinate with the WHO.

In any case, China’s blockage of Taiwan’s participation in the WHO will not only create negative impacts on the health of the island’s 23 million people, but also jeopardize the entire world in terms of the potential spread of fatal infectious diseases.

Should we view the WHO’s report or Margaret Chang’s statement as hypocrisy? We sincerely hope that our international friends can pay much more attention to Taiwan’s unhealthy exclusion from the WHO!

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