Thu, May 18, 2006 - Page 2 News List

DOH lauds WHO compliance

EARLY ADOPTER The authorities said that they had already complied with the world health body's disease control framework in a bid to further boost Taiwan's participation

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Department of Health (DOH) forwarded a letter yesterday to the WHO notifying it of Taiwan's early compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHR), the global framework for infectious disease control, health officials said yesterday.

Director of the Center for Dis-ease Control Kuo Hsu-sung (郭旭崧) told the Taipei Times yesterday that he had personally sent the letter to the WHO to notify it of Taiwan's early implementation of the IHR, which come into force around the globe in June next year.

In the letter, Kuo included the contact information of Taiwan's "focal point," the person who will be responsible for reporting the country's public health response to the spread of any infectious disease to the WHO.

According to the WHO's Web site, "all Member States of the WHO will become State Parties to the IHR (2005). States not members of the WHO may become State Parties to the IHR (2005) by notifying the Director-General of WHO of their acceptance."

Kuo said he was still waiting for a response from the WHO. But if no response was forthcoming, it could mean that China was blocking Taiwan's communication with the WHO regarding the implementation of the IHR.

The World Health Assembly (WHA), the highest decision-making body of the WHO, passed the IHR revisions last year and demanded all WHO members enforce the regulations by June next year.

The IHR will require all state parties of the WHO to report any "public health emergency of international concern" to the WHO.

But a WHO Executive Board meeting early this year called on member states to comply with the IHR immediately on a voluntary basis.

The early implementation of the IHR was expected to bolster communication between the country's infectious disease control authorities and that of the international health community, a strategy the US, Japan and several European countries advised Taiwan to follow in order to boost Taiwan's WHO participation, said Peter Chang (張武修), director-general of DOH's Bureau of International Cooperation.

"By taking the lead in early compliance with the IHR, Taiwan aims to become a model in implementing the global framework for infectious disease control," Chang said.

Taiwan's early compliance could also put pressure on China as the implementation of the IHR requires a high degree of transparency in the reporting, surveillance, quarantine and verification standards of infectious diseases, he added.

"It remains to be seen whether the WHO will recognize and discuss Taiwan's early compliance with the IHR in the upcoming WHA meeting. If it does, it would be a significant step forward for Taiwan's WHO participation," said Chang.

Taiwan will launch its 10th bid to gain observer status at the WHA meeting, which will take place between Monday and next next Saturday.

In addition to applying for observer status, another goal is to campaign for Taiwan's "meaningful participation," which entails Taiwan's substantive participation in WHO-sponsored technical meetings, the WHO's recognition of Taiwan's IHR implementation, the inclusion of Taiwan in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network as well as the country's participation at six of WHO's regional offices.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed by Beijing and the WHO last May, Taiwan's participation in any kinds of WHO-sponsored meetings have to be approved by Beijing and on many occasions, Taiwanese health officials have had to join the WHO's technical meetings under the name of "Taiwan, China."

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