Thu, Nov 29, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Tancredo asks WHO why Taiwan was left out of the loop

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A leading supporter of Taiwan in the US Congress has demanded that the WHO explain its failure to notify Taipei of a potentially debilitating bacterial infection this summer, despite data that Taiwan could be affected.

In a letter to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) on Tuesday, Representative Tom Tancredo asked why her organization had refused to notify Taiwan directly of the danger, opting instead to let China notify Taipei.

Beijing waited as long as two weeks to notify Taiwan.

In his letter, Tancredo said WHO's International Food Safety Authorities Network issued an alert on Sept. 12 regarding a food-borne outbreak of shigella sonnei in Australia and Denmark. The alert requested data from WHO members to evaluate the extent of the danger and contain potential outbreaks.

The WHO issued another alert two days later indicating that food from Thailand was the source of the outbreak and that "Taiwan had been a destination for some of these infected products," Tancredo wrote.

The contaminated food was identified as baby corn from Thailand. Victims came down with a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, stomach pains and fever.

Chan's failure to notify Taiwan of the health threat "could have negative implications that extend far beyond the Taiwan Strait. What if some of these contaminated products had been trans-shipped out of Taiwan to one of the [WHO's] member states?" Tancredo asked.

"Fortunately, it appears that the Taiwanese have taken sufficient measures in this case to preserve the health of its citizens and prevent tainted products from leaving the island. But we might not be so lucky next time," he wrote, adding "It is rather perplexing that the WHO would rely on the benevolence of the Beijing government when it comes to protecting the health and safety of the 23 million people of democratic Taiwan."

Since the WHO Constitution states "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being," Tancredo wrote, "WHO's recent actions seem to indicate the organization does not believe these goals apply to the 23 million people of Taiwan."

"I sincerely hope ... that in the future the organization will focus ... less on complying with the petty parochialism of Communist China's foreign policy demands," Tancredo wrote.

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