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Love without boundaries -- Taiwan's medical assistance to the world

2018/06/05 20:09:14

CNA file photo

By Ko Lin, CNA staff writer

"Love knows no boundaries," Wu Cheng-rong (巫承融), an otolaryngologist at Shuang Ho Hospital in Taipei, says of the time he served in a Taiwanese medical mission in the Marshall Islands.

"At times, patients seeking treatment would later thank us in tears for our help," Wu recalls.

Like many doctors before him, Wu says the experience left an indelible mark on his career, so much so that he will always cherish the time he spent in the Pacific island nation.

For years, Taiwan has been quietly providing medical and humanitarian support to its diplomatic allies, as part of its efforts to develop foreign relations.

Lin Chia-wei (林家瑋), deputy superintendent of the hospital, says providing medical assistance is a manifestation of Taiwan's soft power.

(Lin Chia-wei (林家瑋))

Lin, who travels to the Marshall Islands at least five times each year, says such efforts help Taiwan to secure friendship with its allies.

"Public health is grassroots work, and as long as we are well- planted, we have nothing to fear (from China)," he says of the bilateral developments between Taiwan and the Pacific nation.

According to Shuang Ho, the medical institution sends nearly a dozen medical professionals each year, including physicians, to the country under its "International Health and Medical Assistance" program, which focuses on reducing chronic diseases, improving family hygiene and preventing parasitic infection, among other things.

(CNA file photo)

Similar acts of humanitarianism are also carried out in the Kingdom of eSwatini, where Taipei Medical University has played a crucial role in promoting long-term medical services and hospital management efficiency to the landlocked southern African country.

Tu Chi-cheng (杜繼誠), a neurosurgeon and team leader of the Taiwanese medical mission in eSwatini, says that as with many third-world countries in Africa, medical resources are lacking.

At times, patients need to travel across the border to seek treatment in South Africa, according to Tu, who added that he is currently the only qualified neurosurgeon in the kingdom in which he serves.

(CNA file photo)

Medical care is much like diplomacy, says Wu Mai-szu (吳麥斯), superintendent of Shuang Ho Hospital.

"When you are good to a friend, he or she will return the favor," says Wu.

According to Lin, Taiwan does not need to worry about having only a few friends, adding that building on mutual friendship with diplomatic allies is more effective than politics.

Taiwan cannot win in dollar diplomacy, but what the country can do is prove itself worthy to its friends and forge sustainable friendship, which cannot be easily replaced with money, he says.