Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday to attend the WHO’s 66th annual World Health Assembly (WHA).
Chiu said he would speak at 19 technical sessions during the meeting, which opens today and runs through May 28. It will be the largest number of technical meetings he has attended since Taiwan began to take part in the assembly as an observer in 2009, Chiu said.
He said he also plans to hold private meetings with counterparts from 25 countries.
“Meetings with health ministers from 16 of those countries have been set and arrangements for talks with the remaining countries are still ongoing,” Chiu said.
Chiu will meet with new Chinese Minister of Health Li Bin (李濱), mainly to discuss the outbreak of the H7N9 avian influenza strain and China’s restructuring of its health and family planning agencies.
It will mark the first time that health ministers from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have met since the two sides signed a bilateral health and medical cooperation agreement in 2010.
Chiu, who is heading a 20-member delegation, said this year’s assembly has received a lot of attention because of the emergence of the H7N9 bird flu strain in China as well as the 10th anniversary of the SARS outbreak.
Noting that Taiwan is the only place outside China to have reported an H7N9 case, Chiu said Taiwan has decoded the virus’s genetic sequence through a sample obtained from the Taiwanese businessman who contracted it in China, who has made a steady recovery.
Chiu said Taiwan looks forward to making further contributions to the fight against the new strain.
Chiu said he will outline Taiwan’s health promotion achievements in his report to the WHA, including lowering the children’s hepatitis B virus carrier rate from 10.6 percent to under 0.6 percent and the progress made in liver transplant technology, with five-year survival rates reaching 76 percent, one of the world’s highest.
Meanwhile, Bureau of International Cooperation Director Hsu Ming-hui (許明暉) said Chiu has canceled a meeting with his Philippine counterpart on the WHA’s sidelines because of the diplomatic row between the two countries.
“The Philippines has hoped to learn from our national health insurance system and advanced medical expertise, but we have informed Manila that the ministerial level meeting has been dropped due to the dispute,” said Hsu, who is a member of Chiu’s delegation.
Relations have been strained since a Philippine government boat shot at a Taiwanese fishing boat operating in the overlapping exclusive economic zones of the two countries on May 9, killing fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成).