Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

World Health Organization rescinds appointment of Zimbabwe president as 'goodwill ambassador'

3 2017 Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe during his meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria South Africa. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe Zimbabwean President Mugabe Receives Controversial WHO Appointment
Wallace Pearson | 24 October, 2017, 00:57

He also claimed the Zimbabwean leader - whose decades-long rule has been characterized by authoritarianism and corruption - would focus on the issue of noncommunicable diseases in Africa.

Mr Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since independence from the United Kingdom in 1980, took a charter flight from Harare to Uruguay last week to attend WHO's global conference on non-communicable disease, which include heart attacks, strokes, asthma, and diabetes.

"The United States government has sanctioned President Mugabe due to crimes against his people and the threat he poses to peace and stability", the US State Department said in a statement. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau compared the choice to "a bad April Fool's joke".

Ireland's health minister, Simon Harris, called the appointment "offensive, bizarre".

After an outcry by global leaders and health experts, Tedros said in a statement that he had reflected and changed his mind about the appointment, calling it in the best interests of the United Nations health agency.

As the Guardian reported, the Zimbabwean leader was head of the African Union when it endorsed Tedros's appointment as director-general of World Health Organization earlier this year, leading some in the global medical community to believe he was returning the favor.

Dr Tedros, elected under the slogan "let's prove the impossible is possible" had said he hoped Mr Mugabe would use his goodwill ambassador role to "influence his peers in the region".

"Staff often go without pay, medicines are in short supply, and Mugabe, who has outlived the average life expectancy in his country by three decades, travels overseas for medical treatment", the BBC reported. "It goes against the goals of protecting the world's most vulnerable populations".

He noted that Mugabe himself had travelled to Singapore for medical treatment three times this year rather than in his homeland.

Tedros, who took charge of World Health Organization in July, said he had "listened carefully" to those who condemned the decision and spoken to the Harare government.

"The inordinate noise around the designation of the President [Mugabe] as WHO Global Ambassador for Africa does not assist the cause in the first place".

Supporters and critics of the former Ethiopian health minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, aka Dr. Tedros, the first African to hold the WHO post, had taken to social media to express divergent interpretations.

Other Zimbabweans expressed delight at the news. One of the country's largest hospitals had no running water and patients are asked to bring in their own bucket of water, he added.

Mugabe has been accused of violent repression, election rigging and presiding over economic ruin during his 37 years as Zimbabwean leader.

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