WHO counters Taiwan ad saying it is isolated from world health body

04/15/2020 01:46 PM
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The New York Times ad.
The New York Times ad.

Brussels, April 14 (CNA) Responding to an ad arguing that Taiwan has been isolated from the World Health Organization (WHO), the world health body said Tuesday it has maintained regular technical exchanges with Taiwanese health authorities over several decades.

Asked by CNA to comment on the ad, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic issued a 13-point statement, giving examples of regular interactions that "have taken place over many years and across many different global health concerns."

They include Taiwan's access to information through its International Health Regulations (IHR) point of contact and Taiwanese health experts' participation in two of the key WHO networks set up in January 2020 on the COVID-19 response.

The statement also noted that Taiwanese experts were invited to attend nine WHO technical meetings in 2019, and said the WHO, "through its technical lead, has directly briefed Taiwanese health authorities and has repeated that offer."

The statement was issued after the New York Times published a crowdfunded advertisement aimed at telling the world that Taiwan can help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ad also highlighted the fact that Taiwan has been isolated from the WHO and said no one can isolate Taiwan because "we are here to help." It also took a jab at the world health body by headlining it "WHO can help?"

Taiwan did attend as an observer the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, from 2009 to 2016 but it has been blocked from attending since then due to pressure from China.

Taiwan's representative office in Geneva on Tuesday described the WHO statement as misleading the world to believe that WHO has maintained full exchanges with Taiwan, though it did not specifically dispute any of the 13 points presented.

The office said the WHO Secretariat has been prodded by Taiwan's diplomatic allies and like-minded countries to realize the necessity of interactions with Taiwan, making it possible for Taiwan's limited participation in several WHO technical meetings or activities.

It also said it will continue to communicate with the WHO Secretariat to seek observer status in this year's WHA and full participation in all WHO meetings, mechanism and activities.

In the WHO's statement, it said many of the points were examples of how Taiwanese health experts and authorities have interacted with the WHO in the COVID-19 response while others were examples of regular interactions.

It said, for example, that the IHR point of contact receives IHR communications, provides IHR information updates directly to WHO Headquarters, and has access to the IHR Event Information Site (EIS) system.

At the same time, beyond Taiwanese health experts participating in two key WHO COVID-19 networks, two Taiwanese experts participated in the Global Research and Innovation Forum organized by the WHO in mid-February.

Taiwan's Field Epidemiology Training Program is a member of the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network, with which the WHO shares Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network alerts and requests for assistance.

Other areas of current interaction on the COVID-19 response include the WHO's contact point with Taiwan's office in Geneva, used to handle general questions, and interaction with Taiwanese health authorities through the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

In more general areas of interaction, the statement said, a Taiwanese vaccine manufacturer, Adimmune, contributes to the WHO Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, and in the fight against cancer, Taiwanese experts have contributed to key publications issued by the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer.

In support of the IHR, a Taiwanese expert has been appointed to the IHR Expert Roster; and Taiwan and WHO have exchanges on a variety of practical and technical issues, according to the statement.

(By Tang Pei-chun and Evelyn Kao)

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