Sun, Mar 30, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan Caucus blasts WHO's lack of support

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A health worker disinfects the Chien An Elementary School in central Taipei yesterday, where many of the children of CTCI Corp employees go to school. Four CTCI employees were found to be suffering from SARS on Thursday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Spurred by the growing epidemic of a mysterious respiratory illness, more than two dozen members of the US Congress have intensified their effort to get the George W. Bush administration to press for Taiwan's role in the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) and for Taiwan's inclusion in the global effort to combat the illness.

Led by the co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus and by Taiwan-born Oregon Congressman David Wu (吳振偉), 30 members of the House of Representatives sent Secretary of State Colin Powell a letter on Friday urging him to push for Taiwan's participation in the WHO and the effort to bring the illness, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), under control.

"We are deeply disturbed that one of the nations most affected by this outbreak was denied assistance when it requested help from WHO to diagnose and treat suspected cases of SARS. Despite the health perils posed to 23 million Taiwanese people, the WHO has repeatedly rejected Taiwan's plea for help and has placed the health of an entire nation in jeopardy," the letter said.

"It is unconscionable that instead of focusing on the health needs of the Taiwanese people, the WHO has based its decision on politics and China's short-sighted rejection of Taiwan's membership in the WHO," the letter said.

The congressmen urged Powell and the administration to secure a position for Taiwan in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, which the WHO set up to coordinate the international efforts to fight SARS.

"It is critical to the health and well-being of the Taiwanese people and the entire international community that Taiwan not be left out of the international effort to identify and treat this deadly virus," they said.

They pointed out that crisis "highlights the urgency" surrounding Taiwan's bid to gain observer status in the WHO's World Health Assembly in Geneva in May. They repeated earlier pleas to Powell to "make a clear and uncompromising declaration of US support" for Taiwan's role in the assembly and to instruct the US delegation to the meeting to speak out on the floor of the assembly in favor of Taiwan's observer status.

The letter comes less than three weeks after the House of Representatives voted unanimously for legislation urging the administration to find a way to secure Taiwan's participation in the assembly. The legislation was sent on to the Senate. While the Senate has not set a date for a vote, Taiwan supporters expect the chamber to ack quickly on the bill, sending it to the president for his signature.

Last month, 64 members of the Taiwan Caucus sent another letter to Powell on the subject, expressing disappointment with the administration's failure to act aggressively last year and urging a stronger effort this time around.

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