by Osman ChiaNews Weekly
Taiwan and the WHO (letter)
, May 22, 2004
I wish to congratulate Jeff Babb on his article, "Why Taiwan should be in the WHO" (News Weekly
, May 8).
Taiwan was forced to relinquish its membership in the WHO in 1972 and, since this time, has been excluded from all WHO activities and programs. Taiwan's exclusion from the world health body has greatly hampered the island's ability to provide a comprehensive public health care system.
For example, back in 1998, over 80 people lost their lives during an outbreak of an enterovirus epidemic in Taiwan. As Taiwan was not a member of the WHO, it (WHO) could not answer my country's call for help.
Unfortunately, this situation was repeated during last years' SARS epidemic; it was almost two months after Taiwan asked for the world health body's help that experts arrived. Taiwan lost at least 73 people to SARS.
Disease knows no boundaries. By excluding Taiwan for political reasons, the WHO has denied 23 million Taiwanese people the right of access to the global health care system. This creates a dangerous loophole in the global health and disease prevention network.
The goal of the WHO is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health". Taiwan's desire to achieve participation in the WHO is purely based on considerations of health, and is not a disguised attempt to change Taiwan strait policy.
For the past seven years, Taiwan's efforts to join the WHO have been stymied by Beijing. However, we are glad to see that both the US Congress and the European Parliament passed resolutions last year, calling for Taiwan's entry. Many other friendly governments, WHO officials, and health organisations have expressed similarly heartening support.
It is with great pleasure that I have learned that the Australian House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported a motion in March, supporting Taiwan's participation in the WHO as an observer. I am deeply grateful for the support Taiwan has received from our friends in the Parliament, and from Australians in general.Osman Chia
Director, Information Division,
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office,