Mon, May 19, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan makes progress at WHO

GLOBAL PRESENCE As Taiwan steps up its lobbying efforts to enter the WHO, several health officials have been invited to deliver a report on the growing SARS epidemic

By Melody Chen and Wang Ping-yu  /  STAFF REPORTERS IN GENEVA

Supporters of Taiwan's World Health Organization bid meet yesterday in Geneva to share their experiences.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Department of Health chief (DOH) Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) is slated to represent Taiwan to attend a technical briefing on SARS tomorrow at the World Health Assembly (WHA), sources said.

It would be the first time that a Taiwanese official has been invited to speak on a WHO-held occasion since the nation was excluded from the world health body in 1972.

Chen will also meet US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson on Thursday, sources from the Taiwanese delegation in Geneva said.

Chen is scheduled to present a three-minute report on the development of SARS in Taiwan during the WHA technical briefing. If he is allowed a chance to speak, Chen will be the first Taiwanese official to attend a WHA meeting for 30 years.

DPP Legislator Parris Chang (張旭成), chairman of the legislature's committee on foreign relations, who arrived at Geneva with five other legislators, said all "health authorities" in SARS-affected areas will be invited to report at the technical briefing.

Chang said Taiwan will be able to attend not only the technical briefing but also all subsequent SARS conferences held by the WHO. Taiwan will be joining a WHO anti-SARS conference in Malaysia next month, Chang said.

The US will propose inviting Chen to present the SARS report during the technical briefing. Other speakers of the technical briefing are to be confirmed.

Although the technical briefing is not an item of the WHA's provisional agenda, it is predicted to be a highlight of the assembly, given that SARS has taken a remarkable toll on the health and economies of countries hit by the epidemic.

As China will also be attending the technical briefing on SARS, sources said how the US will arrange its proposal to invite Chen's report on Taiwan's SARS cases is significant.

The sources also said that WHO officials were impressed by Chen's presentation on Taiwan's SARS development during a videoconference held last weekend.

Chen joined health officials from around 12 countries in a conference hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on epidemiological issues related to SARS.

David Heymann, executive director of communicable diseases for the WHO, said the conference reached a consensus on the research agenda on SARS and expressed confidence in Taiwan's ability to contain the SARS outbreak after the conference.

Meanwhile, the growing sympathy shown by many countries toward Taiwan's WHO observer bid because of the SARS outbreak has unnerved China.

Sha Zukang (沙祖康), China's ambassador based in Geneva, has visited all Taiwan's 27 allies' representatives to the WHO in Geneva in an attempt to block Taiwan's bid for WHO observership, sources said

China's delegation to the WHO, led by Wu Yi (吳儀), China's Minister of Health, has arrived in Geneva and visited the WHO headquarters with large groups of health and foreign affairs officials on Saturday.

Facing China's various maneuvers to prevent Taiwan from entering the WHO, Alain Tien (田永康), director of the Taipei Representative Office in France, said Taiwan has been particularly "cautious" in dealing with this year's observership bid.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's major lobbying group at the WHA, the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan, held a meeting at the Intercontinental hotel to discuss Taiwan's WHO observership history.

Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉), executive director of the foundation, said in the meeting, which was a warm-up for today's WHO bid, that a "surprising guest" will appear today in the foundation's activities for Taiwan to join the WHO.

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