When the WHO declared the current Ebola outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on August 8, countries around the world have ramped up their support. The United States and many other countries have committed help to build hospitals, transport supplies, build treatment centers and operate mobile testing labs in the Ebola-stricken countries. It’s clear more needs to be done.
Asian countries are not contributing enough to the global effort to fight Ebola, despite having a wealth of trained medical personnel who could help stop the spread of the deadly virus, World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim said on Nov 4. The overall response from Asia has lagged contributions from the United States. The world needs to put out the fire because if it doesn't, Ebola could spread to any country, including those in Asia.
As the Ebola rages in West Africa, Taiwan is stepping up preparatory measures to protect its citizens while partnering with the global community to mount an effective response. Taiwan immediately established a Task Force for Ebola Virus Disease Response to monitor the latest developments and reinforce the implementation of Ebola prevention measures.
Taiwan is densely populated with a significant amount of international passenger traffic. And having experienced major disease outbreaks such as SARS, H1N1 and H7N9, it exercises extreme caution to guard against the spread of communicable diseases. It is in Taiwan’s interest to take a critical role in combating the epidemic.
Relevant agencies have been directed to remain on high alert as Taiwan needs to prepare for the worst. While no cases have been reported to date, Taipei is taking every precaution. This includes strengthened entry inspections, health education, international collaboration and quarantine exercises. Taiwan CDC had set up an emergency response team August 8 and organized three expert consultation meetings and 1,212 training sessions for more than 100,000 medical professionals and individuals.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has pledged taking all necessary measures to prevent a possible spread of the Ebola virus in Taiwan. In addition to strengthening preparations on the home front, Taiwan is contributing to the fight against the deadly virus abroad. Taipei has provided humanitarian aid and is ready to donate 100,000 sets of personal protective equipment.
On August 25, Taiwan dispatched a team of medical experts to affected areas in West Africa to consult with doctors and assist with patient treatment. Taiwan’s team has excellent medical personnel and superb expertise to deal with disaster and humanitarian relief. Besides treating Ebola, the team could treat other illnesses currently being neglected as hospitals are overwhelmed by Ebola patients. This could help maintain the social and political stability of afflicted nations.
Additionally, the Taiwan Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) has been in close contact with international FETPs, including U.S. and Nigerian health officials, to exchange information on Ebola aid activities as well as to discuss how Taiwan FETP can contribute to and participate in international medical aid efforts.Taiwan is also keeping in contact with U.S. CDC for the latest treatment information and infection updates.
Given the complexity behind the emergence and transmission of the Ebola virus, we must halt the spread of the disease at its source. Hence, it is important that we work with our global partners and do more to support West Africa. As a responsible global citizen, Taiwan is ready and willing to participate in international and humanitarian aid efforts for affected countries.
For Taiwan, the front lines of defense are not in national airports or at border crossings, but in West Africa. If Ebola is not stopped there it will inevitably spread globally. As infectious diseases know no boundaries, especially in today’s increasingly interconnected world, Taiwan looks forward to working with the international community in stopping Ebola and other emerging infectious diseases.
Wang is advisory commissioner for the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council of Republic of China (Taiwan) in the United States and writes on East Asian international politics and regional security issues.