16 countries voice support for Taiwan at WHA meeting (update)

A proposal to invite Taiwan as an observer to the World Health Assembly (WHA) was rejected Monday. (CNA file photo)

Geneva, May 22 (CNA) A total of 16 countries attending the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), from which Taiwan has been excluded for the second year in a row, have voiced their support for Taipei’s participation in WHA related activities during the first two days of the meeting.

Since the WHA officially started on Monday, health ministers and officials from the 16 countries, including Taiwan allies such as the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, San Vincent and the Grenadines and Swaziland (eSwatini), as well as the United States, Japan, Australia, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Honduras, Tuvalu, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize and Kiribati had voiced their support in open and closed-door sessions as of press time.

On Monday, Canadian Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor said “health knows no border” in her speech in favor of Taiwan’s participation, while her German counterpart Jens Spahn said “no vacancy” is allowed when it comes to the issue of the health of all human beings and the World Health Organization (WHO) should be a place where “all people can get together to resolve global health issues.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar expressed “renewed” disappointment about Taiwan’s absence from the WHA this year, saying that Taiwan’s exclusion means its 23 million people are excluded from the global health network, making it more difficult to prevent or deal with contagious diseases across borders.

Michiyo Takagi, Japan’s deputy minister of health, labor and welfare, said as the risk of contagious diseases increases, it is not allowed to leave certain areas behind or set any boundary. From the perspective of achieving global coverage, this is very important, he noted.

Satini Manuella, minister of health from Tuvalu, thanked Taiwan for its assistance to his country and said tolerance is needed if the goal of universal health coverage is to be accomplished, stressing that no body should be ignored because of race, gender or nationality.

Guatemalan Health Minister Carlos Enrique Soto also thanked Taiwan for its support in the field of boosting medical care services to pregnant women and newborns in his country.

Due to pressure from Beijing, Taiwan was unable to attend the WHA — the decision making body of the WHO — in 2017 and 2018, despite having taken part in WHA meetings as an observer from 2009-2016, when the Kuomintang was in power and cross- Taiwan Strait relations were more amicable.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Ta Ya-chen, Frances Huang and Flor Wang)