The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) plans to provide humanitarian aid to Liberia and Chad by sponsoring UN AIDS programs to these two sub-Saharan African countries faced with very severe epidemics of the disease. The contribution will be made by the end of this year.
Both countries have diplomatic ties with Taiwan and are the focus of AIDS campaign efforts by the UN, the World Bank and many other international organizations.
The foreign ministry plans to donate five million Taiwan-manufactured condoms to Liberia, where one of the World Health Organization's (WHO) AIDS prevention programs operates, according to Andrew Hsia (夏立言), director of the ministry's international organization department.
Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps (台灣路竹會) plans to provide free medical services to Liberia for the second time in January and the Corps will first help distribute some condoms there for AIDS awareness and health education, according to its head Liu Chi-chun (劉啟群).
The aid to Chad is in the form of a contribution to a UN AIDS program. Care France, an international non-governmental organization dedicated to development, is launching an HIV/AIDS prevention project along main roads in Chad. Migration and mobility along the main roads within Chad and to neighboring countries aggravate the spread of HIV/AIDS. This project is to be supported by the UN for five years starting from 2000.
"Care sought Taiwan's funding to support the project," Hsia said. "The total budget is around US$3 million. Taiwan will donate US$1 million. The UN, the World Bank and others will sponsor the rest," Hsia said, commenting that "Taiwan is an important donor to this project."
Members of Care France, are coming to Taiwan on Nov. 20 to attend an NGO fair sponsored by Taipei City Government and to discuss the funding issue further with the foreign affairs ministry.
"Taiwan has been ready to give back to the international community for years," Hsia stressed, "Quite apart from the fact that we have diplomatic relations with the two countries, we are undertaking all of this mainly in view of humanitarian considerations."
The Center of Disease Control (CDC) also expressed an interest in the sponsorship. "AIDS prevention is successful in Taiwan and we can provide our experience to countries in need," said CDC Director-General Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲).
"But I hope we will not only contribute condoms and money, but also dispatch disease control experts from Taiwan to assist with AIDS prevention," Twu added.
A newly formed Taiwanese medical corps, ACT International Medical Action Organization (
Taiwan has its own medical and agricultural troops, sent by the government, in Liberia and Chad. "But we hope to cooperate with international NGOs with credibility in the AIDS campaign," Hsia said, adding that personnel dispatched overseas by Taiwan operated more like civil servants than aid workers.
Despite the emphasis on humanitarian consideration, China's probable opposition to Taiwan's sponsorship of UN programs still worries Hsia. His concerns are not unfounded.
China has in recent years been gaining ground in its efforts to isolate Taiwan on the world stage, thwarting its official diplomatic initiatives and standing in the way of its participation in other unofficial global organizations.
Taipei Overseas Peace Service, a Taiwan-based NGO mainly working on development in Indochina, cooperated with UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) on an education project in 1998. The collaboration lasted just one year, due to objections from China.
Last Sunday in Kyoto, Japan, the WHO declared the west Pacific region polio-free but left Taiwan off a list of 37 polio-free countries, despite the fact that polio eradication was achieved in Taiwan in 1985. Taiwan was counted by the WHO as a part of China.
Furthermore, Taiwan's donation of US$10 million to the WHO for its worldwide polio eradication campaign was not given recognition on the WHO's donor list because the sponsorship was done through Rotary International. The WHO declined to accept Taiwan's donation in the name of Taiwan.
It is the same story with Taiwan's sponsorship of the AIDS project in Chad. Care bridges Taiwan's aid to the country.
"It's medical aid and irrelevant to politics," said some medical professionals, "We hope China won't object to the sponsorship. We simply hope to help solve the AIDS problem and relieve people's suffering."
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