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Taiwan Could contribute to Global Health:Based on Taiwan’s Cooperation in East Africa

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By Ambassador Allen Chenhwa Lou

Taiwan Representative Office in the Republic of Somaliland

May 13th, 2024

 

Taiwan’s Exclusion from WHA: Loss for the World

COVID-19, a term that reshaped the international commerce, scarred the global community, and forever redefined the health landscape as we know. The pandemic resulted in a terrible loss of life, exposing the vulnerability of present global health governance framework when facing unforeseen threats. Although COVID-19 is no longer labeled a public health emergency of international concern and the stability of global economic activities has gradually been restored, the World Health Organization (WHO) remains cautious against the threat of a Disease X pandemic. However, while topping the chart on Numbeo Health Care Index for five years in a row, Taiwan is bizarrely barred from participating in World Health Assembly (WHA) and at the international health discussion concerning global pandemic.

 

In fact, Taiwan’s participation in WHA has its precedent from 2009 to 2016 without objection, but after which Taiwan was excluded from meetings due to political reasons. As such loopholes in the health alert system widened over the years, leaving the world population to bear the cost. Nevertheless, Taiwan remains undeterred in our health contribution to the world.

 

Taiwan’s People-Centric Health Contribution in East Africa

During the onset of COVID-19 in Somaliland, Taiwan took the initiative to contribute significantly in the forms of vaccination and equipment. Besides arranging for timely donations in aid of public protection, healthcare professionals and technicians are assigned to Somaliland to administer projects in maternal infant healthcare, public health emergency response system, and health information system. In Kenya, TaiwanICDF partners with Terre des hommes to address Kenya’s pressing water crisis by improving the access to water, sanitation, and hygiene at healthcare facilities in Garissa County Kenya. However, more can still be done if Taiwan participates in the global health discussion more comprehensively.

 

Taiwan’s means to rightfully participate in WHA has long been crippled by political malice. Despite Taiwan’s willingness to contribute during regional crises, such good will is often impaired by intentional actors. However, political issues should be resolved through political avenues, instead of spilling over to health or humanitarian sectors, where the weak and underprivileged are forced to bear the consequences.

 

Reinstating Taiwan’s Observer Status for Global Health

Considering Taiwan’s potential contribution to global health governance and health as an inalienable human right, the restoration of Taiwan’s participation in WHA is only reasonable. As health issues transcend border and politics, Secretary of State of the United States of America, Antony J. Blinken and G7 Foreign Ministers’ Joint Communique had expressed support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations, including WHA and WHO technical meetings respectively.

 

Right now, a new pandemic agreement aiming to craft a robust global pandemic governance framework is scheduled to be discussed at the 77th World Health Assembly. The previous COVID-19 outbreak had taught us a hard lesson that political biases do not shield us from diseases, but only permit their transmission. When a valuable actor such as Taiwan is barred from joining WHA as an observer, it is the world’s loss by introducing loopholes into the global health preventative network.

 

As the international community is cautiously averting the next global pandemic outbreak, “Excluding Taiwan’s meaningful participation in WHA is denying the right of Taiwanese and global citizens alike to health security”. In the post-COVID era that reflects on the previous practice and making critical changes to brace for pandemic X, we could not afford to repeat the same mistake again. Support Taiwan’s WHA participation is to secure Humanity!

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