Shin Kong Memorial Wu Ho-Su Hospital Deputy Superintendent of Medical Affairs Yang Kuo-ching (front, center), Palau Health Minister Emais Roberts (front, second right) and other dignitaries are all smiles June 6 in Taipei City. (Courtesy of Shin Kong Memorial Wu Ho-Su Hospital)



Health Minister Emais Roberts of Republic of China (Taiwan) diplomatic ally Palau said June 6 his nation will continue to support Taiwan’s bid to participate in the World Health Assembly—the decision-making body of the World Health Organization— during a visit to Shin Kong Memorial Wu Ho-Su Hospital in Taipei City.


Taiwan did not receive an invitation to participate in the 70th WHA that was held May 22-31 in Geneva. This is the first time Taiwan has been excluded from the annual gathering since it was invited to attend in 2009 following an absence of 38 years.


“Health is a basic human right that belongs to everybody, including the 23 million citizens of Taiwan, and they should have a voice in the WHA,” Roberts said, adding that it is internationally undisputed that Taiwan has one of the best health care systems in the world.


The Palau health minister noted that during the assembly he had the opportunity to discuss the issue of Taiwan’s exclusion from the 70th WHA with newly elected WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia. Roberts stressed that his intention was to make his country’s position on the matter clear to all national delegates.


That same day, a Swiss official also voiced support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. Member of the Swiss Federal Council and head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs Alain Berset made his comments during a session of the National Council, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland.


He expressed regret that Taiwan was unable to continue participating in the WHA as an observer as it had since 2009, stressing that global health knows no borders and depends on international collaboration. Berset said the Swiss Federal Council hopes a solution can be found that allows Taiwan to once again participate in the health assembly.


In an effort to illustrate the importance of the nation’s inclusion in the global health security network, a team led by Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung traveled to Geneva to participate in meetings and forums on the sidelines of this year’s WHA. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the action team engaged in exchanges with national delegations from 31 countries as well as 28 international medical organizations through 59 meetings and forums on the sidelines of the assembly.


During the WHA proceedings, 14 ROC diplomatic allies spoke out in support of Taiwan’s inclusion. Similarly, many partner nations including Germany, Japan and the U.S. also voiced backing for the country’s meaningful participation.


Since participating in the annual WHA as an observer in 2009, Taiwan has shared its extensive experience in a range of areas such as providing universal health care coverage and managing outbreaks of highly contagious diseases. This involvement is widely recognized as helping strengthen global disease prevention and safeguard the health of Taiwan’s 23 million people. (KWS-E) [/restrict]