Taiwanese Children Count?"
Post, July 8, 1998
Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
President Clinton was visiting China, scores of Taiwanese
children just across the straits were continuing to fight
for their lives against a new, deadly virus. Unfortunately,
the doctors treating this illness do not have access to
the medical resources of the World Health Organization (WHO)
because the regime in China will not permit Taiwan to gain
membership. The fact that Taiwan is severely crippled in
its effort to save children is a tragedy, with deadly implications
for children the world over if this virus is not halted.
is in the grip of a fatal epidemic that's showing no sign
of slowing down. Over the past month, more than 50 children
have reportedly died due to the outbreak of a virulent strain
of enterovirus type 71, which causes severe inflammation
of muscles surrounding the brain, spinal cord and heart.
Infants and children are most vulnerable to this highly
treating the children unfortunately do not have access to
the best medical information available because Taiwan is
not allowed membership in the WHO, and cannot share in the
organization's vital resources and expertise. This issue
should not be about geopolitics; it should be about helping
the past half-century, the WHO has become the foremost international
organization working to control and eradicate disease and
to improve health for people the world over. Through the
WHO's highly effective immunization programs, millions of
children live better, longer and healthier lives. The WHO
has already helped protect some eight out of 10 children
worldwide from major childhood diseases, including measles
and tuberculosis, and has worked to reduce the global infant
mortality rate by 37 percent since 1970. The WHO was also
instrumental in eradicating the smallpox epidemic, which
spread to 31 countries in the late 1960s and claimed nearly
two million lives.
suffer from the effects of inadequate health care, whether
they live in Los Angeles, Milan, Hong Kong, or Taipei. With
the high frequency of international travel, the risk of
transmitting infectious diseases such as AIDS, the Hong
Kong bird flu and the enterovirus is greater than ever.
In addition, increased international trade leads to a greater
potential for the cross-border spread of such deadly viruses.
the denial of WHO membership to Taiwan is an unjustifiable
violation of its people's fundamental human rights. Good
health is a basic right for every citizen of the world,
and Taiwan's admission to the WHO would greatly help foster
that right for its people.
of course, is not the only obstacle to Taiwan's admission
to the WHO. The Clinton administration, as with the two
previous administrations, does not support Taiwan's participation
in international organizations. However, the U.S. State
Department's 1994 Taiwan Policy Review clearly stated it
would more actively support Taiwan's membership in international
organizations when the U.S. government determines that "it
is clearly appropriate."
more than 50 of my colleagues in the House believe U.S.
support for Taiwan's admission to the WHO is and has long
been "clearly appropriate." Last February I introduced a
resolution expressing the sense of Congress that Taiwan
and its people should be represented in the WHO and that
it should be U.S. policy to support Taiwan's membership.
WHO celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the organization
can proudly claim 191 nations as members. But for the past
25 years, Taiwan has been shut out of the WHO because of
China's continued intransigence toward its small island
neighbor. Every day, children and the elderly in Taiwan
suffer needlessly because their doctors aren't able to have
access to WHO medical protocols that save lives. The longer
we wait, the more desperate the situation in Taiwan grows.
We must act immediately to right a very serious wrong.
The writer is a Democratic representative from Ohio
and ranking minority member of the House subcommittee on
health and the environment.