De­spite un­set­tled in­ter­na­tional sta­tus Tai­wan con­tin­ues help­ing small is­land states!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Kayra Wil­liams

Un­der­stand­ing the heart of diplo­matic ties be­tween the Repub­lic of China on Tai­wan and is­lands in the Caribbean and Pa­cific was the cen­tral fo­cus of a week­long ex­plo­ration of Tai­wan span­ning May 27- June 3, 2017. Jour­nal­ists from var­i­ous parts of the globe in­clud­ing St Vin­cent, Saint Kitts, Saint Lu­cia, Solomon Is­lands, Tu­valu, Palau and the Repub­lic of Nauru spent the week test­ing their knowl­edge of Tai­wan's ef­forts in their own coun­tries, and gain­ing in­sight from rep­re­sen­ta­tives in gov­ern­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, agri­cul­ture, sports and other sec­tors.

Among the top­ics dis­cussed was the growth of Tai­wan as a na­tion, and its abil­ity within that scope to pre­serve pre­cious as­pects of cul­ture. Not sur­pris­ingly, Tai­wan's in­ter­na­tional im­age, suc­cesses and strug­gles, es­pe­cially its on­go­ing ef­forts to be­come a mem­ber of the United Na­tions, was up for dis­cus­sion. Even this week Tai­wan's ex­clu­sion from the UN's World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion Assem­bly was mak­ing head­lines. While in Tai­wan the me­dia del­e­ga­tion had the op­por­tu­nity to sit with Dr Chui-Cheng, Deputy Min­is­ter, Main­land Af­fairs Coun­cil, Ex­ec­u­tive Yuan, who em­pha­sized his con­vic­tion that Tai­wan had al­ready made its con­tri­bu­tion to the in­ter­na­tional arena and, as such, its par­tic­i­pa­tion was vi­tal. He spoke of in­creased pres­sure from main­land Bei­jing, stat­ing that ob­sta­cles in­ter­fered with Tai­wan's par­tic­i­pa­tion and hin­dered its ef­forts at mak­ing mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tions.

“Both sides should be re­spon­si­ble for regional peace and se­cu­rity,” he said. “We have called many times on main­land China to be re­spon­si­ble and set aside dif­fer­ences, and elim­i­nate the bias they have with us.”

Dr Chui-Cheng thanked all the coun­tries that had stood in co­he­sion with Tai­wan un­der un­re­lent­ing pres­sure from China. His grat­i­tude was echoed in meet­ings to fol­low with Bill Keh-Ming Chen, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Depart­ment of Plan­ning in the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs (MOFA), as well as Paul Chang, Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral, Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices. Dis­cus­sions touched on Tai­wan's on­go­ing de­vel­op­men­tal sup­port and part­ner­ships with small is­land states and other al­lies, num­ber­ing 21 as of Novem­ber 2016. At a meet­ing with the In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment Fund (ICDF) rep­re­sen­ta­tives high­lighted key ar­eas in which Tai­wan of­fered as­sis­tance in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture, pub­lic health, IT, ed­u­ca­tion, and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. These in­cluded, but were not lim­ited to, shared ex­per­tise in food se­cu­rity, dis­ease pre­ven­tion and quar­an­tine, with an ex­change of med­i­cal per­son­nel and the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of ICT cen­tres, e-gov­er­nance and other as­pects.

In many of the coun­tries to which Tai­wan is af­fil­i­ated, build­ing ca­pac­ity in ICT is para­mount for progress and de­vel­op­ment. Un­der the Tech­ni­cal Co­op­er­a­tion realm the ICDF has thus far em­barked on two projects in Saint Lu­cia: Fruit and Veg­etable Demon­stra­tion and Ex­ten­sion Project, now in the sec­ond phase, and GINet Gov­ern­ment Is­land-wide Net­work Project. There are also two projects in Saint Kitts, three in Belize, and two in St Vin­cent. In to­tal, the two lo­cal projects amount to over US$4 mil­lion. Both projects are ex­pected to be com­pleted in 2018.

Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence with in­ter­na­tional me­dia, ICDF of­fi­cials dis­cussed other ini­tia­tives un­der the Tech­ni­cal Co­op­er­a­tion um­brella in­clud­ing the Tai­wan Youth Over­seas Ser­vice (al­ter­na­tive mil­i­tary ser­vice) and the Tai­wan ICDF Over­seas Vol­un­teer Ser­vice which falls un­der the Hu­man­i­tar­ian As­sis­tance (pub­lic health and ca­pac­ity build­ing) cat­e­gory. Other di­vi­sions in­clude Lend­ing and In­vest­ment (fi­nan­cial sup­port) and In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing (schol­ar­ship pro­gramme, pro­fes­sional work­shops and over­seas Man­darin teach­ing projects).

De­scrib­ing stu­dents as the driv­ing force of na­tional de­vel­op­ment, Dr. Lee Pai-po, Deputy Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the ICDF noted that 21 uni­ver­si­ties are cur­rently in­volved in the schol­ar­ship pro­gramme of­fer­ing 35 cour­ses: 12 bach­e­lor's, 21 mas­ter's and two Ph.D. pro­grammes. Since 1998, 1,720 stu­dent have re­ceived scholarships, with 175 more to be granted this year.

Af­ter an in­for­ma­tive ses­sion, it was off to the Vet­er­ans' Hos­pi­tal and, once there, it was im­me­di­ately clear that the fa­cil­ity was one that val­ued ef­fi­ciency and stream­lin­ing, and whose op­er­a­tions had ben­e­fit­ted as a re­sult. The bustling hos­pi­tal saw thou­sands of pa­tients a day, yet there was ab­so­lutely no sign of chaos (a def­i­nite con­trast to af­fairs in our part of the world!) The hos­pi­tal was es­tab­lished in 1959. The visit there was a sharp change of pace in the day's events and a grim re­minder that even the most pro­gres­sive of so­ci­eties must face life and death, sick­ness and health. The Vet­er­ans' Hos­pi­tal records 30,000 in-pa­tients, and 710,000 out-pa­tients an­nu­ally, with a staff com­ple­ment

in the thou­sands. Re­garded as one of the best med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties in the world (top 15), the fa­cil­ity is the largest in Tai­wan. Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Wui-Chi­ang Lee, Chief, Depart­ment of Med­i­cal Af­fairs and Plan­ning, the hos­pi­tal has marked a num­ber of firsts, in­clud­ing be­ing the first hos­pi­tal to use trans-cra­nial mag­netic stim­u­la­tion for the treat­ment of de­pres­sion. He noted that the Vet­er­ans’ Hos­pi­tal spe­cial­ized in the ad­min­is­ter­ing of emer­gency medicine, with 230 emer­gency pa­tients a day. The hos­pi­tal’s med­i­cal chief shared some of the in­ter­na­tional out­reach and de­vel­op­men­tal ef­forts in which they are cur­rently en­gaged, in­clud­ing work­ing closely with the is­lands of Saint Kitts and of the Repub­lic of Nauru in the Pa­cific, in di­a­betes re­search en­deav­ours. Re­sults of those stud­ies had shown that young peo­ple in those ter­ri­to­ries were prone to di­a­betes. A re­porter from Nauru wanted to know what ad­vice doc­tors would give to the peo­ple of Nauru, as he made it known that on his is­land, “We don’t grow our own food. There’s noth­ing fresh on the is­land; ev­ery­thing is im­ported.”

The ad­vice was straight­for­ward and a re­flec­tion of the re­search that had al­ready been done in that ter­ri­tory: “Less milk teas and sweet drinks, re­duce su­gar in­take, re­duce starch in­take, drink more wa­ter.”

Words of wis­dom well-suited for Saint Lu­cia which has some­thing of a cri­sis where di­a­betes, hy­per­ten­sion and re­lated com­pli­ca­tions are con­cerned, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to re­nal dis­ease and fail­ure, and the dif­fi­culty pa­tients face in get­ting treat­ment.

“Chronic dis­ease is the main is­sue,” Dr Lee noted. “Ed­u­ca­tion is im­por­tant, from ju­nior and high school. It is harder for adults to change their be­hav­iour. When you tell the kids, they will go tell their par­ents. Chil­dren are the most im­por­tant part and that is the strat­egy I would like to share with you, be­cause it is very im­por­tant.”

At the Vet­er­ans’ Hos­pi­tal thou­sands of pa­tients re­ceive dial­y­sis per year, which amounts to a fig­ure in the bil­lions foot­ing their health bill. Of­fi­cials shared that the hos­pi­tal is cur­rently in the process of help­ing in the es­tab­lish­ment of the CKD Dial­y­sis Cen­tre in Saint Kitts.

A num­ber of hos­pi­tals in Tai­wan col­lab­o­rate with med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties in small is­land states. As far as Saint Lu­cia is con­cerned, the Changhua Chris­tian Hos­pi­tal of­fers as­sis­tance in a num­ber of ar­eas in­clud­ing ca­pac­ity build­ing and train­ing. St Jude Hos­pi­tal has been a bene­fac­tor of as­sis­tance from Changhua in ar­eas in­clud­ing health in­for­ma­tion sys­tems, ad­min­is­tra­tion, bio­med­i­cal and first re­sponse ser­vices.

By the end of the tour of the state-of-the-art hos­pi­tal, it was clear just how much of a sig­nif­i­cant role hos­pi­tals in Tai­wan play in the de­vel­op­ment of med­i­cal re­search, train­ing, and fa­cil­i­ta­tion for small is­land states, and the ad­vance­ments that have al­ready been made be­cause of their con­sis­tent ef­forts. How­ever, for jour­nal­ists who had trav­elled tens of thou­sands of miles for the ex­pe­ri­ence, this was only the be­gin­ning! IN NEXT WEEK’S STAR: More of Tai­wan’s ef­forts in the re­gion, and the lessons that Saint Lu­cia can still learn from the ROC!

Me­dia from the Caribbean and Pa­cific is­lands with MOFA press of­fi­cer Joanna Wu (sec­ond from left) and tour guides.

Stu­dent play­ing the Oca­rina dur­ing a visit to the Na­tional Cen­tre for Tra­di­tional Arts.

Right: Dr Chui-Cheng, Depu Exe

Stu­dents from the Drum Art Union per­form­ing at the Dragon Boat Fes­ti­val dur­ing a visit to Kaoh­si­ung.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment Fund. At left: Dr. Lee Pai-po, Deputy Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the ICDF.

uty Min­is­ter, Main­land Af­fairs Coun­cil, ec­u­tive Yuan.

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