[OPINION] A comprehensive global health network must include Taiwan

Wallace Minn-Gan Chow 

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[OPINION] A comprehensive global health network must include Taiwan
‘I call on the Philippine government, its Congress, and its people to support Taiwan’s institutionalized participation in WHO meetings and mechanisms’

(This was written in time for the 77th session of the World Health Assembly, which was scheduled to commence in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 27 to June 1, 2024.)

Over the past few decades, Taiwan has improved its health care and public health system in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. These efforts included enhancing primary and oral health care as well as combating communicable and noncommunicable diseases. However, Taiwan has been excluded from the World Health Assembly (WHA) since 2017 due to political pressure from China.

Despite making significant contributions to the world during COVID-19, Taiwan was prevented from drafting and negotiating the WHO Pandemic Agreement. It does not have ready access to pandemic-related resources and materials, namely the WHO Pathogen Access and Benefit-Sharing System (PABS) and the Global Pandemic Supply Chain and Logistics Network.

To date, WHO has refused to display the contact point information of the Taiwan Centers for Diseases Control on the International Health Regulations intranet. As a result, IHR contact points in other countries cannot directly report pandemic information to Taiwan, nor can they receive the important pandemic information Taiwan provides to WHO. This adversely affects pandemic prevention efforts.

Nonetheless, Taiwan seeks robust engagement with the global health security network and collaboration with WHO to strengthen the resilience of the global health system. Both its public and private sectors are committed to sharing the experience and expertise with partner countries, and its closest neighbor, the Philippines is among the beneficiaries.

For example, Tzu Chi, whose headquarters is in Hualien, Taiwan, has provided free clinical services in the Philippines since 1995, with its Eye Center at the Santa Mesa district of Manila running as of 2007. The Eye Center has catered to more than 130,000 outpatients and performed more than 15,000 surgeries for the past 17 years.  Tzu Chi even has plans to build a new hospital, so that it can treat more patients at a permanent location. 

In October 2023, the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps team, consisting of physicians, surgeons, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, lab experts, and volunteers, provided its 3rd free medical services to Philippine patients in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur. The Noordhoof Craniofacial Foundation, in collaboration with Taiwan’s Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, partnered with the Craniofacial Foundation Philippines and the United Davao Specialists Hospital and Center Inc. to form a “Medical Mission Team with Love” last November. The team has provided free reconstructive surgeries for 329 Filipino craniofacial patients since 1999. 

In 2024, the Taiwan Cardiac Children’s Foundation, sponsored by the Rotary Club, traveled to the Philippines to train local physicians in performing transcatheter pulmonary valve replacement surgeries in May. The team will come again to Manila in June to perform actual surgeries at the Philippine Heart Center to improve the local medical standards and provide better care for children with heart disease. 

Taiwan remains firmly committed to its professional and pragmatic approach and to playing an active role in global health initiatives. A world without Taiwan is unthinkable, inequitable, and unjust. We are appreciative of the support from our international friends. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the United States was strongly encouraging the WHO to reinstate an invitation to Taiwan to participate as an observer in the World Health Assembly. And during recent hearings held by the US Senate and House of Representatives committees on foreign affairs, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink explicitly endorsed Taiwan’s participation in the WHA as an observer.

The inclusion of Taiwan in WHO and the WHA transcends political considerations – it is a practical necessity. WHO should uphold professionalism and neutrality, reject political interference, and invite Taiwan to participate in the WHA as an observer.

In the meantime, I call on the Philippine government, its Congress, and its people to support Taiwan’s institutionalized participation in WHO meetings and mechanisms. Let bayanihan spirit shine and include Taiwan in the WHO to achieve “Health for all.” – Rappler.com

Ambassador Wallace Minn-Gan Chow is the representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines.

1 comment

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  1. JD

    Excluding Taiwan from the WHA runs counter to one of the WHO’s key objectives. Why accede to political pressure from China and sacrifice the beneficial contributions Taiwan is able to offer the world?

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