Criticism of Taiwan’s exclusion from WHA ramps up

Three more countries spoke in favor of Taiwan’s participation at the annual health conference

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Eswatini Minister of Health Lizzy Nkosi (Screencap from WHO Live)

Eswatini Minister of Health Lizzy Nkosi (Screencap from WHO Live)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — More allies and like-minded countries signaled their support for Taiwan’s inclusion at the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) on the third day of this year’s summit.

Eswatini and Saint Kitts and Nevis made direct pleas for the World Health Organization (WHO) to reincorporate Taiwan into its annual assembly. New Zealand stressed that politics should not trump global health.

The 72nd annual WHO summit commenced on Monday (May 20), gathering delegates from its 194-member states to discuss and implement responses to major global health concerns.

A total of 23 countries, including 15 diplomatic allies and eight like-minded nations, spoke directly or indirectly in favor of Taiwan’s participation in the WHA during the first two days of the conference.

Palauan Health Minister Emais Roberts on Tuesday (May 21) said the WHA is “left behind” by Taiwan’s absence.

Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare for Paraguay, Julio Mazzoleni, said Taiwan’s exclusion creates obstacles for the exchange of relevant information, and “undermines the constructive spirit of cooperation in the international community.”

Japan and Canada both stressed the need to work toward an international health community in which everyone is included, for a better health and welfare system.

New Zealand Ministry of Health Director-General Ashley Bloomfield said on Wednesday (May 22) that, “When we consider universal health coverage collectively in a global context, there should be no room for politics or politicization in our considerations.”


New Zealand Ministry of Health Director-General Ashley Bloomfield (Screencap from WHO Live)

“New Zealand will continue to strive with all countries for universal health coverage that leaves no one behind,” he added.

The representative also thanked the international community for its response to the recent Christchurch massacre.

Eswatini Minister of Health Lizzy Nkosi lauded Taiwan’s national healthcare scheme and its inclusion of foreign residents, stressing that it is run “in the spirit of leaving no one behind.”

Nkosi said the exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO “deprives many of the opportunities to learn from them.”

Saint Kitts and Nevis Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton praised Taiwan for assisting the country “immensely” in its journey towards providing universal healthcare. He expressed gratitude to Taiwan for helping sustain “an increasingly strong cooperative relationship.”


Saint Kitts and Nevis Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton (Screencap from WHO Live)

“Because of its location, Taiwan could easily become a gateway for infectious disease,” Hamilton said.

“I see no logical justification for the exclusion of Taiwan as an observer to this annual global event, particularly after witnessing the tragic rejection on Monday, when members in this body categorized the efforts to contribute majorly to global health as plain politics,” he said.

The WHA General Committee on Monday dropped from its agenda a proposal to reinstate Taiwan as an observer to the WHA. The proposal was signed by 14 of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.

“I therefore repeat the call for the inclusion of Taiwan as an observer to the WHA,” Hamilton said.

China has obstructed Taiwan from attending the WHA since 2017, after Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected president.

Taiwan attended the summit as an observer between 2009 and 2016.