GENEVA - Taiwan is protesting China's decision to exclude the island from participation in the annual World Health Assembly, calling such action an unjustified political move that could harm global health.
The 72nd session of the World Health Organization's World Health Assembly takes place May 20-28 in Geneva, Switzerland.
This move is particularly ironic this year, as the theme of the assembly is universal health coverage. Taiwan's national health system is widely considered one of the best in the world.Taiwan's minister of health and welfare, Chen Shih-chung, says the island is ready to share its experiences on how to achieve affordable, efficient universal health coverage with the global community.
"However, under pressure from the People's Republic of China, Taiwan is currently excluded by WHO from the global health network," Chen said. "Inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHA would be consistent with WHO's espousal of health for all."
The health minister notes Taiwan's exclusion poses health risks to everyone. Chen says diseases do not stop at borders, and international cooperation is needed to combat epidemics that could spread to every corner of the world.
Chen tells VOA he has written several letters to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to protest Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Assembly. Chen says he has received no response. He says WHO has even rejected Taiwan's offer for help in combating the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
"Our president announced we would donate $1 million U.S. to combat Ebola; but this donation, even this donation was not accepted by the WHO. So, this is a pity in our situation. We want to do something, but WHO did not accept us to do something for the world," Chen said.
WHO estimates it needs $98 million to run its Ebola operation. It is facing a funding shortfall of some $63 million.
Despite pressure from China, Taiwan's officials say they have received support for their bid to join the WHO from a number of countries including the United States, Japan, Germany and Australia.