Sun, May 11, 2003 - Page 8 News List

It's time to break the WHO taboo

By the Liberty Times editorial

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) recently attended the opening ceremony of the European Week, during which he gave an address pointing out that the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has been brought under effective control.

Regretfully, Chen said, Taiwan is still unable to join the World Health Organization (WHO) and its willingness and ability to play a constructive role in the global health care system continues to be unrecognized.

Chen said he sincerely hoped that, with the support of foreign diplomats and representatives of the various other countries, Taiwan would be able to join the WHO soon.

At a time when the country has been fighting a battle against a rising number of SARS infections all by itself for more than a month, and after the serious infections inside the Taiwan Municipal Hoping Hospital and Jen Chi Hospital, the WHO has finally sent two low-profile specialists to help combat the SARS epidemic.

The predicament of Taiwan and the discriminatory treatment it receives highlight the importance and urgency of the nation's entry into the WHO.

After decades of hard work, Taiwan has become an affluent and prosperous country boasting the 16th largest economy in the world. In particular, the nation not only achieved enormous economic accomplishments, it also completed political reforms to become a free, democratic, and prosperous country that attaches a high priority to the protection of human rights.

Taiwan's accomplishments were praised by US Secretary of State Collin Powell as a success story, instead of a problem. However, it is probably hard for most people in the world to imagine that such a success story has been shut out from the international community for the past three decades, as if it was some international orphan.

China not only bullishly and constantly gives Taiwan political beatings, but in fact won't even allow Taiwan to join some non-political international organizations, depriving it of the right to basic international human rights.

Take the WHO, for example. When Taiwan withdrew from the UN, it was also forced out of the WHO. Thereafter, just like a person without medical insurance, Taiwan could not seek help from the WHO and has been shut out of the international medical and healthcare system even when faced with serious epidemics, such as caused by the enterovirus and dengue fever.

The SARS epidemic spread from China's Guangdong Province to Hong Kong, Singapore and Toronto where a large number of ethnic Chinese immigrants congregate. Later, it further spread to Taiwan via busy cross-strait interactions.

It may be said that Taiwan has been a victim of China. However, after Taiwan was victimized, it was unable to obtain the relevant data and information as a result of its exclusion from the WHO.

It was able to rely only on help from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the help of the medical community at home to confine the initial phase of the outbreak of the disease.

But, after infections occurred within Hoping Hospital and Jen Chi Hospital, things began to get out of control. In times like these, besides adopting tough governmental measures, there is an even greater need for aid from international health care and medical organizations.

As indicated by Department of Health specialist General Hsiao Mei-ling (蕭美玲), since the WHO recognized the outbreak of the SARS epidemic, Taiwan has never ceased to report local conditions to the WHO.

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