June 14, 2024

Stream Health Care

It Looks Good On You

Taiwan’s indispensability in preparing for pandemics

4 min read

The three years of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a terrible loss of life and exacerbated health inequalities. The global economy slumped, and, worldwide, people’s lives were affected. This experience demonstrated that the present global health governance framework is not effective in responding to threats to global health. Although Covid-19 is no longer labelled a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), and trade and economic activity globally have returned to normal, the World Health Organisation (WHO) cautions against the threat of a ‘Disease X’ pandemic. Therefore, it is critical that countries across the globe unite to bolster health governance.

Taiwan’s participation in that effort should be regarded as indispensable.

The WHO and many countries began reviewing response strategies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Weaknesses in the International Health Regulations (2005) concerned with managing the crisis were revealed. As a result, changes are afoot. Proposed revisions include enhanced surveillance, reporting and information sharing, improved response readiness, and revised criteria for declaring PHEICs. At the same time, there is vigorous debate about a new pandemic agreement, which aims to craft a robust global pandemic governance framework grounded in accountability, transparency and equity. The agreement may be approved at the 77th World Health Assembly.

As Taiwan is not a WHO member state, we cannot directly influence revisions to the International Health Regulations or the drafting of the pandemic agreement. Nevertheless, we remain greatly concerned about the content of and developments regarding those central documents. We are eager to contribute our insights into pandemic management and learn from international best practices. Taiwan was the nation that initially identified the epidemic risk and promptly executed adaptive measures. Taiwan also proactively shared vital information with global partners and garnered public trust through a commitment to openness. This was crucial in effectively implementing pandemic policies. To address future pandemics, we will strive to refine approaches to obtaining vaccines, managing medical resources, utilising technology, safeguarding human rights and addressing misinformation.

We strongly endorse the passage and implementation of amendments to the International Health Regulations and the pandemic agreement. We call on the WHO to include Taiwan as a signatory to those documents. That would enable us to collaborate on monitoring new virus strains, reporting and exchanging pathogen diagnosis data, and sharing novel vaccine and antiviral research or clinical trial results. It would further collective global action against future pandemics and would greatly assist more resilient anti-pandemic efforts by the international community.

We urge the WHO to support Taiwan’s inclusion in overseeing global health. Taiwan remains committed to participating based on the principles of professionalism, pragmatism and making contributions. Taiwan seeks to cooperate with the WHO to remedy geographical gaps in global health security and to construct a comprehensive global health framework.

The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has found that at least 140 countries recognise health as a fundamental human right in their constitutions. Despite that, many nations have not passed and implemented laws to ensure that their citizens have access to healthcare services. Taiwan has worked hard to reach universal health coverage and has consistently improved the quality of health care over the past few decades, in line with WHO recommendations. We have effectively integrated and allocated social welfare resources to enhance primary and oral health care for all, implement mental health programs, and strengthen the social safety net. We have put in place an agile and resilient healthcare system able to combat both communicable and noncommunicable diseases. We are improving health for all individuals over the course of their entire lives. Moreover, Taiwan is working to share its experience and expertise in achieving universal health coverage to help the international community realise health for all.

The theme for World Health Day 2024 is ‘My health, my right’. This is a way to advocate for every individual, everywhere, to have access to high-quality health services, education and information, as well as to enjoy safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, good-quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

Through a public–private partnership, Taiwan has been contributing to global efforts to realise the right to health in collaboration with partner countries and international organisations. We have improved medical care in small South Pacific island nations; enhanced nutrition for women and children affected by an earthquake in Haiti; provided psychological support to Ukrainian refugee women, children and aid workers in Romania; bolstered climate-change adaptability in the Caribbean; and improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene at healthcare facilities in Kenya. Furthermore, Taiwan has provided humanitarian assistance through post-disaster recovery and reconstruction efforts that have helped people get through disasters in the Philippines, Japan, Hawaii, Turkey and Indonesia.

Taiwan believes that health is a human right. Yet the rights of Taiwan’s 23 million people are disregarded by the WHO for political reasons. Taiwan remains a steadfast partner in defending the right to health of all people everywhere. We urge the WHO and all relevant parties to recognise Taiwan’s considerable contributions to global public health and the human right to health. It is imperative that the WHO adopts a more open-minded approach and demonstrates flexibility, adhering to the principles of professionalism and inclusivity. Taiwan should be included, as a matter of pragmatism, in the World Health Assembly and all WHO meetings, activities and mechanisms, particularly those concerned with the WHO pandemic agreement. This would better empower Taiwan to collaborate with global partners to uphold the fundamental human right to health stipulated in the WHO Constitution and the vision of leaving no one behind espoused in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


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