The World Health Organisation is facing a heap of backlash after appointing 93-year-old Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as its goodwill ambassador to “influence his peers”.
The first African director-general of the global health body, Ethiopian Tedros Ghebreyesus announced the appointment of the frail president on Friday at a conference on non-communicable diseases in Uruguay.
“Today I am also honoured to announce that President Mugabe has agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador on NCDs for Africa to influence his peers in his region to prioritize NCDs,” he said with praises for Zimbabwe.
2/3 Zimbabwe established a levy fund for NCDs, an innovative domestic resource mobilization approach that other countries can learn from.— WHO (@WHO) October 19, 2017
3/3 The President committed to mobilize his colleagues in his region to prioritize noncommunicable diseases.— WHO (@WHO) October 19, 2017
This generated the backlash from Mugabe’s critics including human rights organisations and health bodies who described the president of 30 years as unfit for such a role due to the history of human rights violations under his leadership.
The Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth tweeted: “Mugabe corruption decimates Zimbabwe health care (he travels abroad for care) but @WHO’s Tedros names him ambassador.”
This contravenes the statement of Tedros who said Zimbabwe is a country that “places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all”.
Mugabe has travelled to Singapore multiple times this year for medical treatment generating so much controversy in the southern African country.
Civil society group NCD Alliance said in a statement on Friday that it rejects Mugabe as an ambassador for non-communicable diseases.
“While we support WHO & Dr Tedros in their ambition to drive the NCD agenda forward, we are unable to recognise President Mugabe as a chamipion for NCDs,” said the NCD advocacy group.
The WHO has not responded to the outrage caused by the appointment which has been condemned by Zimbabwean individuals, organisations and international bodies.
Below are some reactions to Mugabe’s WHO goodwill ambassador appointment.
Yet Mugabe gets medical attention outside Zimbabwe, have they seen the state of parirenyatwa and Harare hospital or the health system. Irony— TaffRock Media (@TaffRock) October 21, 2017
How is Mugabe a WHO ambassador? Treated in Singapore. No pills in clinics. Surgeries regularly postponed. Deaths from curable diseases. How?— Cde Bae (@Baekithemba) October 21, 2017
Shocking that Robert Mugabe has been made a goodwill ambassador for WHO despite committing awful human rights violations— Alex Ward (@AlexWard1994) October 21, 2017
Please Mr Moyo Sir, you know mugabe has destroyed the country's health system wch is why he goes to Singapore! Where is your conscience?— admire (@nyamwanza) October 21, 2017
God dammit i saw Mugabe trending and i thought he was dead, was getting ready to throw a party. WHO is a joke for doing this.— Noma Mabandla (@Norma_ott) October 21, 2017
Wonder if anybody at the WHO tried to tell Tedros Ghebreyesus that it would be a bad look to appoint Robert Mugabe as a Goodwill Ambassador?— Erin Mould (@pfinger18) October 21, 2017
— Marc Brennan (MarcBrennan82) October 21, 2017
WHOall my friends have left Zimbabwe because of Mugabe’s actions and mistreatment of human beings. Does that make him a goodwill amb?
— Pete Jones (petejoneseu) October 21, 2017
WHOThere is something terribly wrong with any organisation that supports and thus endorses the likes of Robert Mugabe. His recent appointment as "goodwill ambassador" also brings into question the position of Dr Ghebreyesus!
— Christopher (Christos_Protos) October 21, 2017
WHODue to your appointment of Robert Mugabe I will no longer be following you on Twitter.
But isn't Mugabe evidence of health and longevity, the very things #WHO wants for all of us? Arrono….— #FreeSSudan4 (@joshkariuki) October 21, 2017
4/There's no way that Mugabe's appt is some one-off bit of weirdness. It enflames mistrust for WHO, an offshoot of the UN. No accident.Reeks— wearealltroydavis (@weRtroydavis) October 21, 2017
— Steve Taylor (NightlarkSteve) October 21, 2017
WHOr u stark staring mad? Who approved Mugabe? What idiocy is this? The man is a despot of the worst kind! Goodwill my arse.