Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Officials defend nation's observer status at WHA

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Health and diplomatic officials yesterday defended the government’s participation at the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer after former health minister Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said the nation’s participation in WHO-related activities remained limited.

At a press conference held by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus at the legislature, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said the nation had had more interaction with members of the WHO since Taiwan was invited to attend the WHA as an observer last year.

“We believe this is a specific development and we also hope we can increase the nation’s medical and health cooperation with other countries so that Taiwan can make a bigger contribution to the world,” Lin said.

Vice Minister of Health Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said that Taiwan was able to receive first-hand epidemic information from the WHO and its member states over the past year.

“We successfully obtained information related to A(H1N1) during its outbreak, vaccine strains to help produce the A(H1N1) vaccine and virus strains to help us understand the virus,” Chang said.

The KMT called the press conference after Chen, who participated at the WHA last year as an expert, said Taiwan still did not enjoy equal status, nor could it fully interact with the organization’s members.

Chen said the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer asked him last year to recommend Taiwanese experts to write books on esophageal cancer, but the agency later regretted the decision because it had to seek China’s consent.

Taipei received an invitation from the WHO Secretariat this week to attend this year’s WHA meeting in May as an observer using the name “Chinese Taipei.”

It will be the second year Taiwan has been invited to attend the conference.

The invitation was faxed to Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), although Yaung was referred to as “Minister of the Department of Health [DOH]” while Taiwan was referred to as “Chinese Taipei.”

“The format of the invitation is the same as last year. The only difference was the letter to [Taiwan] and other WHO members and WHA observers were sent simultaneously,” Department of Health Vice Minister Hsiao Mei-ling (蕭美玲) said.

Last year, Taiwan received an invite on April 28, three weeks ahead of the meeting.

KMT caucus secretary-general Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) gave credit to the government over the invitation, saying that it showed that the Ma administration had made some achievements in terms of obtaining more international space.

In related news, the DOH said yesterday its goal this year was to join the WHO’s International Food and Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).

Taiwan’s participation would greatly enhance the country’s defense against substandard food products, said Juan Chuan-chuan (阮娟娟), director of the department’s Office of International Cooperation.

Juan said food safety has become a global concern and many countries are interested in sharing experiences and information, boosting Taiwan’s chances of being admitted to the group.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU

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