Vice President Chen states Taiwan’s case for WHA attendance

Republic of China (Taiwan) Vice President Chen Chien-jen said May 15 that he was deeply disappointed, dissatisfied and regretted the absence of an invitation for Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly in Geneva, stating that the country's exclusion will jeopardize the health of its 23 million people and create a gap in the global disease control and prevention network.

Taiwan is committed to contributing to global health, Chen said. The World Health Organization must abide by its constitution, which stipulates that enjoyment of the highest standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition, he added.

The vice president made the remarks during an interview with Time magazine at the Office of the President in Taipei City.

According to Chen, as a member of the international community, Taiwan has the right to take part in global health-related activities, including those organized by the WHO. Disease knows no boundaries, and given the emergence of new ones and the rapid pace of cross-border epidemic transmission resulting from globalization, Taiwan's absence from the May 22-31 WHA�the decision-making body of the WHO�has potentially fatal consequences, he said.

Political differences should not override human rights or health, and Taiwan is strongly dissatisfied with the WHO's decision and strongly protests the political interference of mainland China, the vice president said.

Despite the lack of an invitation to the WHA, the vice president said the minister of health and welfare will lead a delegation to the Swiss city and facilitate cooperation and exchanges through bilateral meetings with countries around the world.

According to Chen, Taiwan has provided more than US$6 billion in international medical and humanitarian assistance benefiting more than 80 countries since 1996. The nation is also willing to share its successful experiences in clinical care, public health and its internationally renowned universal health care coverage.

These efforts have been widely recognized, the vice president said, adding that the support extended by Canada, Japan, the U.S. and other like-minded countries, as well as international health organizations, for Taiwan's WHA participation serves as testament to the nation's valuable contribution to promoting global health, he added.

The vice president said although Taiwan is a front-runner in disease control and health care, it must participate in the WHA so as to receive the latest global health information updates. This allows for improved border controls, as well as strategies for early identification of new diseases and effective containment of epidemics.

Equally important is Taiwan's commitment to sharing its related experiences with all WHO members in managing public health challenges like AIDS, hepatitis, malaria and tuberculosis, Chen said, adding that Taiwan and the U.S. are working together on a training program for the early identification of dengue fever, Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

With its advanced medical technology, Taiwan can help enhance the well-being of the global community through its expertise in preventing and treating noncommunicable diseases, the vice president said, citing the country's proven track record in screening risk factors contributing to cardiovascular diseases.

Chen said Taiwan has also made progress in the development of a new diagnostic tool, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals for cervical cancer, pneumoconiosis and pancreatic cancer, respectively, in addition to carrying out clinical trials of a dengue fever vaccination in neighboring countries.

In 2009, Taiwan was invited by the WHO to take part as an observer in the annual WHA following an absence of 38 years. The country has since shared its extensive expertise in areas such as universal health care coverage and the management of contagious diseases like SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Source: Taiwan Today