TAIWAN must NOT be left out in the fighting against birdflu!

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President Letlape, World Medical Association
President Hiroko Minami, international Council of Nursing
President Parrot, Federation International Pharmaceutics
President Michele Aerden, World Dental Federation
17 April 2006

Dear Presidents,
On behalf of the more than 200,000 health professionals in Taiwan, we would like to express our most heartfelt appreciation for your support over the years to facilitate Taiwan's commitment to establishing a strong partnership with global health leaders and communities. We would also like to extend our gratitude to all of you for the resolutions and announcements made by the individual members of the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) to support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer and its incorporation into the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) mechanism.

It is encouraging that a resolution was finally adopted by the 58 WHA last year. This resolution, which calls upon the WHO members and Director-General to fully implement the principles in Article 3 of the IHR 2005, states: "The implementation of these Regulations shall be guided by the goal of their universal application for the protection of all people of the world from the international spread of disease." Despite the inquiries by our government to the WHO since the adoption of that resolution, we have seen no further progress in realizing the principle of "universal application" of the IHR. In other words, no arrangements have been made to incorporate in the IHR mechanism the 23ffiillion people of Taiwan, who have been left out by the WHO for the last 34 years. In the face of the rampantly spreading avian flu, we cannot help but express our disappointment on the lack of progress in addressing the basic and urgent needs of our people. It is equally disappointing that a request to merely include the issue of Taiwan's observer ship into the provisional agenda of the coming WHA was denied by the WHO Executive Board in January this year.

Furthermore, our Center for Disease Control has continued to face rejection in its efforts to join the WHO's non-governmental Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), which functions as a one-stop shop of global resources to help manage a public health emergency of international concern. The GOARN is composed of an array of "partners," such as voluntary scientific institutions, medical and surveillance initiatives, regional technical networks, laboratories and NGOs.

Participation of our health and medical officials and experts in WHO technical meetings marks another concern of ours, as such forums would serve as an important channel for Taiwan to acquire information on disease control. Since May 2004, we have been only allowed to attend about one third of the meetings of interest to us. Who knows how many other important WHO meetings we have missed due to lack of information thereof! In general, Taiwan's access to WHO technical meetings remains quite limited, sporadic and inadequate. According to current practices, our officials and experts are required to file an application to attend a meeting 4 weeks in advance. In addition, as they have little or no access to follow-up arrangements or the implementation of
decisions from these meetings, the usefulness of their attendance is minimal. Such limited participation also deprives Taiwan of the opportunity to help others by contributing to global disease control.

Dear Presidents, in the spirit of "health for all" as enshrined by the WHO Constitution and the missions of the WHPA, we are respectfully seeking your kind assistance in urging Dr. Jong-wook Lee, Director-General of the WHO, to allow Taiwan to attend the WHA as an observer to effectively address the health rights of its 23 million people. In the meantime, to help Taiwan fight against the imminent threat of the rapidly spreading avian flu and other pandemics, we are also seeking your kind support in facilitating our meaningful participation in the WHO. With this in mind, we would greatly appreciate it if you could urge Dr. Lee to allow Taiwan to join the GOARN, attend the WHO's technical meetings systematically, participate in meetings/activities of the WHO Regional Office, and be fully incorporated into the IHR 2005 mechanism.

We look forward to hearing from you on this matter and wish you all the best.

Sincerely yours,