For all people around the world regardless of their race, religion or political affiliation, the basic and foremost requirement for happy living is being healthy, as nothing can be achieved without a healthy body. To prevent disease and pursue health, appropriate medical care is a universally acknowledged basic human right and is the most important task of every government. On the global level, due to the fact that people and goods move around more quickly than ever before in this fast-paced world, global disease prevention has become an important issue and international cooperation is the key to safeguarding our living environment. It was for this cause that the World Health Organization, was established in 1948 with the objective of “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health” and with the mission to coordinate worldwide efforts to achieve that objective.

The Republic of China had been a full and active member of the WHO for 24 years and had made substantial contributions to the fulfillment of the organization’s objectives until 1972, when Taiwan had to withdraw itself from all the international organizations, including the WHO, because of Mainland China’s political pressure. Though isolated from the world health arena, Taiwan has made great achievements in healthcare through the concerted efforts of the government and people. For example, Taiwan has worked toward the eradication of malaria, rabies, plague, the prevention of black-foot disease and arsenic poisoning, the setting up of a general medical network and an emergency medical network; and, above all, the implementation of the National Health Insurance Program.

What’s more, Taiwan has reached out a helping hand to the world as well. For example, last August, when upon learning that the State of Chuuk of the Federal States of Micronesia was seriously hit by a typhoon, the Tzu-Chi Foundation, a worldwide non-profit, charitable organization based in Taiwan, and its Honolulu Chapter in cooperation with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Honolulu, immediately donated tons of medical supplies and services. This deed was highly recognized by the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and was reported on their Web site. Furthermore, last December, Taiwan donated $1 million to the United Nations Foundation to join the global fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. That is the reason why U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledges Taiwan as a “success story,” and as a generous contributor to the international community.

Apart from its health achievements, Taiwan has also been recognized for its successful economic development, democratization and globalization. It has received well-known accolades throughout the world, such as being one of the four “Asian Dragons” and the “Taiwan Experience.” Through the hard work of its 23 million diligent people, Taiwan is now an outstanding example of democracy and economy. It has the 16th largest economy and is the 14th largest trading nation in the world. What’s more, Taiwan is a major transport hub linking northeast and southwest Asia. In the year 2002, Taiwan registered 7.85 million outbound travelers and 2.19 million inbound visitors. The fact that Taiwan is excluded from the WHO is not only contrary to the universality principle of the WHO, but also creates a vital gap in the global disease prevention network.

Recently, the outbreak of an unknown disease being called “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome,” or SARS, described as an “atypical pneumonia,” has killed several people in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. The WHO has issued a worldwide emergency travel alert and said that there have been reports of more than 150 suspected new cases. Taiwan’s immediate participation in the WHO is now more critical than ever, because Taiwan’s geographical location, along with its advanced medical research facilities, creates a perfect niche to help identify, prevent, and eradicate this deadly disease.

Taiwan is now a formal member of the World Trade Organization and has joined APEC as an “economic entity.” Given the fact that Taiwan has a resilient economy, a vibrant democracy and possesses its own quarantine and health inspection systems that would help to achieve the objectives stipulated by the WHO Constitution, Taiwan certainly can be regarded as a “health entity” and therefore qualified to join the WHO as an observer.

It is our hope to call your attention, dear friends of the state of Hawaii, to urge China to consider the health, well-being, and prosperity of the people on Taiwan. Do not let political discord affect the most basic, humanitarian need for Taiwan. Health is a “Sans Fronti

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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards.