Members of 20 national healthcare associations yesterday urged the WHO not to exclude Taiwan from attending this month’s 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The WHA, the WHO’s decisionmaking body, is to be held from Tuesday next week to May 28, but Taiwan has not received an invitation for the third consecutive year due to pressure from China.
Taiwan Medical Association president and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chiu Tai-yuan (邱泰源) said that many countries and people from around the world have voiced their support for Taiwan to be invited to the WHA this year, including a letter to the WHO by the World Medical Association, urging it to grant Taiwan observer status at the WHA.
Photo courtesy of the Taiwan Medical Association
The growing global support demonstrates that the international community is gravely concerned about Taiwan being unfairly excluded from the WHO and its events, he said.
“We feel deep regret and are angry that the WHO has not allowed us to attend the WHA several times due to political suppression,” he said. “We condemn the improper use of political power to obstruct the universal value of healthcare for all.”
Taiwan Union of Nurses’ Association executive council member Chou Shin-shang (周幸生) said that the theme of the WHA this year is “universal health coverage — leaving no one behind,” highlighting every individual’s right to heath, regardless of their age, race, belief and political inclination.
“We, members of Taiwan’s healthcare family, stand in solidarity with friends around the world to point out that Taiwan is the missing piece in the global health puzzle,” she said. “Health for all and Taiwan can help.”
Taiwan is a dedicated contributor in many international healthcare organizations, committed to working together, and sharing knowledge and experience on universal health coverage, so the associations stand together to urge the WHO to invite Taiwan to the WHA this year and truly “leave no one behind,” she added.
National Union of Chinese Medical Doctors’ Association secretary-general Ko Fu-yang (柯富揚) said that Taiwan’s absence would be a loss for the WHA, because Taiwan has a very high national health insurance coverage rate and advanced healthcare quality that can contribute to the world.
Hepatitis C is expected to be eliminated in the nation in the next few years, which would be a significant achievement, and Taiwan has many similar skills and experiences that it can share with others, he said.
“Taiwan’s participation [at the WHA] can make global disease prevention closer to perfect,” he added.
DPP Legislator Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said he was moved by the associations’ continuous efforts to speak out for Taiwan, because other countries would only help if Taiwan helps itself, and many countries have expressed their support this year because they recognize the efforts of Taiwanese healthcare professionals.
Striving for inclusion in the WHO is not an easy challenge, but Taiwan must stand firm and determined for what is right, DPP Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said.
“We must let the world know China has never, not even for one second, been able to represent the 23 million Taiwanese,” he said.
China cannot speak for the rights of 23 million Taiwanese and cannot represent Taiwan, he added.
DPP Legislator Chen Ching-min (陳靜敏), also representing the Taiwan Nurses’ Association, said that Taiwan’s healthcare professionals can only share their experiences by joining international medical organizations, and as the association is a member of the International Council of Nurses, she has attended the WHA’s side events in 2005, after the SARS outbreak in 2003.
Chen said she could still vividly recall how Chinese representatives claimed that they represent Taiwan and could take care of Taiwanese, but the nation was excluded from the international SARS prevention network in 2003.
Sadly, the WHO still has not learned from that experience, Chen said.
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