Mon, Jan 16, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Government urged to get creative on WHO entry

NEW APPROACHES Health activists said that a different strategy was needed in the nation's campaign to join the world health body, since success has so far proven elusive

By Jenny Chou  /  STAFF REPORTER

Political and health activists yesterday urged the government to adopt new strategies for Taiwan's entry into the World Health Organization (WHO) saying that the health of the nation's 23 million people was at stake.

According to former head of the Department of Health, Tu Hsing-che (涂醒哲), the nation's entry into the WHO was inevitably tangled up in politics, which was unfair since both the WHO and Taiwan stand to gain from Taiwan's membership.

"The WHO without Taiwan is not healthy, and it may even be dangerous," Tu said.

Chen Long-chi (陳隆志), the president of the Taiwan New Century Foundation, said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) should put forward a formal proposal to gain entry into the WHO, and that it should be as an official member rather than as an observer, since observers have far fewer rights.

"As an observer, Taiwan would not receive the full benefits in terms of aid received and the right to express ourselves in full-scale meetings," Chen said.

Shu I-ren (蘇益仁), head of the clinical research team at the National Health Research Institute, said that Taiwan could offer its medical expertise to help deal with a potential bird flu pandemic.

Chiu Ya-wen (邱亞文), an assistant research fellow at the National Health Research Institute's Center for Health Policy Research and Development, added that the nation was positioned between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, where the disease is most prevalent, making Taiwan's involvement in discussions critical.

"Most countries are adopting the attitude of prevention by keeping bird flu out of the country, making it critical for them to know the bird flu status of other countries. With Vietnam having the highest number of human cases of bird flu and Taiwan's heavy investment in Vietnam's industrial trade, knowledge of Taiwan's bird flu status is crucial," she said.

According to Chiu, there are 100,000 Vietnamese laborers and brides in Taiwan while there are 30,000 Taiwanese businessmen in Vietnam.

Chiu said that a key strategy was to train personnel to understand how organizations work at a global level.

She suggested that there should be a public relations department set up to negotiate relations between the WHO and Taiwan rather than having Taiwan try to "argue" its way in.

Tu said that despite political barriers preventing Taiwan's entry into the WHO, China may one day soften its stance, and that it was just a matter of "timing, geography, and ability."

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