I was posted to work in Turkey 14 months earlier, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was still ravaging the world. Having lived in Taiwan and Turkey during the worst global public health crisis of all time, I learned to realize that Taiwan and Turkey have a lot more in common than I had previously thought. Hospitality and gastronomy aside for the moment, it is their humanitarianism and passion for helping others in the face of the pandemic I am referring to. The anti-pandemic efforts of Taiwan and Turkey have demonstrated that they are willing and capable members in the global family of nations to tackle all sorts of challenges of the post-pandemic era.
For starters, frankly speaking, how Turkey has utilized digital technologies to combat the pandemic, for instance the HES (Life Fits Into Home, in Turkish "Hayat Eve Sığar") code system, generated by a Health Ministry-run digital project, really dazzled me. Taiwan has also successfully leveraged smart technologies, such as apps, web-based tools and other information technologies, and integrated them with the National Health Insurance database to help implement anti-pandemic policies and measures. They have become all too familiar to Taiwanese people. On the other hand, my family and I in Turkey also enjoyed the convenience of making COVID-19 vaccination appointments and checking polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results via the award-winning e-Nabiz (e-Pulse) application. Moreover, the digitalization of COVID-19 vaccination records and health certificates helped cut through red tape and bureaucracy. Being one of the millions of beneficiaries, I truly am grateful for the way Taiwan and Turkey have deployed available digital technologies in combating the pandemic.
It goes without saying that vaccines are one of our most effective weapons against the coronavirus. I personally got all my three COVID-19 jabs in Turkey, and I appreciate the generosity and thoughtfulness of Turkey to vaccinate all legitimate residents here, including forced migrants, which is supposedly the right move in terms of pushing for herd immunity. Despite not belonging to the first group of countries to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, Taiwan and Turkey are still without a doubt among the few capable of making indigenous COVID-19 jabs – the Taiwanese Medigen COVID-19 vaccine and the Turkish Turkovac vaccine. And instead of merely benefiting their own people, they both took one step further by donating the domestically developed vaccines to help those in desperate need of vaccinations. Additionally, Turkey made the best use of its flag carrier airline Turkish Airlines (THY) as its cargo planes delivered 335 million coronavirus jabs to 61 countries in 2021 alone.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has led to a humanitarian disaster on a scale not seen in Europe since World War II and forced more than 4.8 million people to flee to neighboring countries in search of safety. However, shortly after the conflict broke out, I was deeply moved seeing Taiwan and Turkey quickly mobilize to show their deep-seated support for the kindred spirits of Ukraine. Turkish nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) continuously delivered humanitarian aid to Ukraine and its neighboring countries. Similarly, in Taiwan, donations of cash, medical supplies and essential items flowed in from around Taiwan and were then distributed to Eastern European countries bordering Ukraine. The outpouring of care and concern from Taiwan and Turkey is testament to their shared values, i.e., being a force for good in the international community and ensuring the United Nations promise to "Leave No One Behind."
Like Turkey, Taiwan’s health care capabilities have won international recognition. Taiwan in 2022 topped global database Numbeo’s Health Care Index for the fourth consecutive year. On account of the capabilities and willingness of Taiwan and Turkey to cooperate with other countries, as exemplified above, I sincerely anticipate more Taiwan-Turkey cooperation in the field of public health – whether bilateral or multilateral. However, the World Health Organization (WHO), bowing to unjust political interference and ignoring Taiwan’s extensive contributions in global health, has been unable to maintain a professional and neutral stance on Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer. Given what Taiwan has been doing to help address the world’s shared challenges, the WHO is in fact jeopardizing global health by continuing to exclude Taiwan. We urge every country, organization and individual to support Taiwan’s campaign to attend the WHA and participate in all WHO meetings, mechanisms and activities, for we believe that the WHO-led global health system will become stronger than ever by including Taiwan and its 23.5 million people. Let’s work in an all-hands-on-deck manner to achieve the WHO’s goal of "Health for All."