Taiwan asks PH support on participation to World Health Assembly

MANILAAs close friends with common interest to promote health, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Manila has urged the Philippine government to support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2018.

The WHA is the decision-making body of WHO and is attended by delegations from all World Health Organization (WHO) member states. Taiwan is not a member of the WHO, the United Nations and its other sub-organizations.

In an appeal to the Philippines, a WHO member state, TECO Representative Dr. Gary Song-Huann Lin wrote that enjoyment of good health is one of the universal human rights of every individual without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

"It is morally wrong for any country or organization to deprive the 23 million Taiwanese people of their fundamental health rights to participate in 2018 WHA and to share international health information as well as the prevention of disease and epidemics," he said.

Lin pointed out that Taiwan's participation will enhance the global health system and will further serve as a good role model for the universal health coverage.

He said they can share Taiwan's experience with other countries, including the Philippines, make timely reporting and acquire information on diseases, and play a constructive role in global and in regional health protection.

"This would create a win-win scenario for Taiwan, the Philippines, the WHO, and the world community," the diplomat said.

"Taiwan and the Philippines are the closest neighbors. There are approximately 150,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan, and millions of Filipinos traveling through Taiwan," he said, noting that around 300,000 Filipinos even visited Taiwan in 2017.

"Given the bilateral close relations, for our common interests and protection of people's health, I hereby humbly urge the Philippines Government, Congress, health organizations, and general public to support Taiwan for its participation in the WHA in May 2018," Lin said.

2018 marks the 15th anniversary of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, first reported in Asia in February 2003.

Lin lamented that due to deprivation of Taiwan's fundamental health rights, many Taiwanese lost their lives to SARS.

"Although Taiwan is back on its feet and has developed an ever stronger disease prevention system, Taiwan is still being prevented from participating in the WHA on political grounds and cannot make contributions towards the uplifting of international health and medical services," he said.

Given that virus infection knows no borders, Lin underscored only when every member of the international community is included in the collective fight against diseases, the negative effects of the next potential pandemic outbreak would be minimized.

Located at a key position in East Asia, Taiwan shares environmental similarities for communicable disease outbreaks with neighboring countries. On top of this, it is frequently visited by international travelers.

"This makes Taiwan vulnerable to cross-border transmission and cross-transmission of communicable disease pathogens, which could lead to their genetic recombination or mutation, and give rise to new infectious agents," Lin said.

Being unable to attend the WHA, as well as its exclusion from full participation in related WHO technical meetings, mechanisms, and activities, Lin said "this creates serious gaps in the global health security system" and threatens their people's right to health.

"In this era of increased globalization in which infectious diseases spread across boundaries, Taiwan has the urgent and practical need to become an important and indispensable partner in the fight of the global diseases," he said.

"Moreover, Taiwan has the ability to make substantial contributions to the global efforts on disease prevention and control, as it has established a comprehensive disease prevention system and organized numerous training workshops aimed at building capacity to prevent Ebola, MERS, dengue fever, and Zika in the Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asia, thereby facilitating collective efforts to strengthen global health security," he added.

The 71st WHA will be held from May 21 to May 26, 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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