Health Should Come Before Politics

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Health Should Come Before Politics
Thu, 05-01-2003 - 3:56pm
As soon as SARS cases were suspected in Taiwan, health authorities on the island reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), asked for assistance and expressed Taiwan's desire to join in the global effort to combat the spread of the mysterious new illness. Beijing authorities, on the other hand, kept information about SARS secret from the world for months, and continue to revise estimates of how many people are infected, leaving China's citizens scared, suspicious, and confused. Strangely enough, it is mainland China that is a member of the WHO, and Taiwan that is excluded from the organization due to international pressure from Beijing.

Taiwan has confronted the SARS epidemic head-on, and kept the public informed of the situation. But Taiwan's effective measures to combat SARS have been largely ignored by the world health community, and all too often jumbled together with information about SARS in mainland China. Because Taiwan lacks vital channels of communication with the WHO, information and aid are not able to pass back and forth as easily as they should. Beijing's insistence that Taiwan be excluded from the WHO, especially during this crisis, is another indication of China's failure to make public health and safety, rather than politics, the top priority.

The fact that Taiwan has an independent and democratic government has allowed it to operate with transparency and efficiency to curtail the spread of SARS on the island. But Taiwan's continued exclusion from the world's largest health organization is unjust, irrational, and dangerous. Taiwan must have a role in the WHO in order to ensure the health of its citizens, and help protect the health of people all over the world.

Jung-tzung Yih

Director, Information Division

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York