13 countries voice support for Taiwan at WHA

Opening of the World Health Assembly at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, May 21, 2018. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

GENEVA (CNA) — A total of 13 countries have spoken up for Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Assembly (WHA), as of May 21, the second day of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual meeting.

Following the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, which voiced direct and indirect support for Taiwan on the first day of the assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, more countries spoke out Tuesday for Taiwan during the second day of the gathering.

During the fourth plenary meeting of the 72nd WHA, the decision-making body of the WHO, Palau’s Minister of Health Emais Roberts thanked many countries, including the U.S. and Japan, for providing health and infrastructure support for Palau, and took time to single out Taiwan’s contribution.

“There is one partner not present in this room. And over the past three years since I’ve been here, I have not seen them. They have helped Palau achieve its SDG goals (sustainable development goals) and also supported Palau for the past 20 years,” Roberts said.

“They are ranked 9th in the Bloomberg Health Efficiency Index. They are champions of universal healthcare, and there are 23 million of them. Thank you, Taiwan,” he said.

“Palau does not dispute WHO is right or wrong in this arena. We all try to do the right thing, sometimes from a different perspective.” “When we are gathered here at the WHA talking about universal healthcare, no one left behind, I believe that by excluding Taiwan from sharing their success in WHA, it is not Taiwan WHO is left behind, it is us at the WHA. Palau believes that Taiwan can help,”he said.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam voiced indirect support for Taiwan during the plenary meeting.

“The global community has made great strides in improving the heath of populations. We should be proud of that but there is still more to do,” she said.

“To achieve our goal, we need to work together to see beyond our differences,” Tam said. “Politics should not impede people’s access to global health system.”

He added: “Canada remains committed to building a health community where everyone is included, regardless of WHO they are or where they live.”

Honduran Health Secretary Claudia Quiroz said that to achieve SDG goals and other global health agenda targets, her country must work together on national and international levels.

She said it is important to highlight continuing and indispensable support provided to Honduras by certain governments, including Taiwan, a partner and an ally in the promotion of health for many years. She also noted that developing a healthier world clearly means leaving no one behind.

Guatemalan Health Minister Carlos Enrique Soto Menegazzo also lauded Taiwan’s contributions in the healthcare sector during his remarks.

He expressed gratitude to Taiwan for having collaborated with Guatemala on strengthening health coverage for pregnant women and medical supplies that allow the country to strengthen its health system and improve monitoring and emergency preparedness, as well as strategies around communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Earlier that day, during the third plenary meeting of the 72nd WHA, Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Shintani Masayoshi said regions should not be left out and denied the right to participate even as observers.

Paraguay’s Minister of Health Julio Mazzoleni stressed the importance of international cooperation and Taiwan attending the WHA as an observer, which he said would help the WHO achieve its goals more efficiently.

“We think that questions relating to global 4health cannot be dealt with simply on the basis of political concerns. We believe therefore the participation of Taiwan as an observer here is essential to help us achieve the goals of this organization,” Mazzoleni said.

Taiwan’s absence puts obstacles in the way for it to exchange relevant information with other countries, he said, adding that the country’s exclusion will not help the WHO objectives of guiding and promoting world health.

Due to its “one China” principle, this year Beijing blocked the WHO from inviting Taiwan to the WHA for the third year in a row since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in May 2016.

Taiwan attended the gathering from 2009-2016 as an observer when relations with China were better.

By Tang Pei-chun and Evelyn Kao