Saturday, 18 November, 2017

World Health Organization withdraws Robert Mugabe goodwill ambassador role

Phill Magakoe  AFP  Getty Images Phill Magakoe AFP Getty Images
Sammy Stanley | 23 October, 2017, 04:34

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reacted swiftly to worldwide outrage over its appointment of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, rescinding the post less than one week after it was announced.

"We have registered our concerns with WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus", a foreign office spokesperson said in an email.

He said he revoked Mugabe's position in the best interests of the World Health Organization.

Jeremy Farrar, a leading global health specialist and director of the Wellcome Trust charity also said the decision was "deeply disappointing and wrong" and called on Tedros to be courageous and reverse it.

Jeremy Farrar, a global health specialist and director of the Wellcome Trust charity and the NCD alliance, representing health groups combating chronic diseases, welcomed the reversal.

"Given Mugabe's appalling human rights record, calling him a Goodwill Ambassador for anything embarrasses World Health Organization and Doctor Tedros", said Mr Iain Levine, a programme director at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

Britain said Mugabe's appointment was "surprising and disappointing" and added that it risked overshadowing the WHO's global work.

Foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi said the United Nations health agency "benefited tremendously" from the original decision to name Mr Mugabe to the post because of the global attention that resulted.

"The only person whose health 93-yo Mugabe has looked out for in his 37 year reign is his own".

Tedros is the former health minister of Ethiopia.

The controversial 93-year-old statesman was also criticised by Canada's prime minister.

Mugabe's regime has been accused of & internationally sanctioned for a wide variety of human rights abuses & violations - and the Physicians for Human Rights group has previously reported that the health system in the country has "utterly collapsed" under Mugabe's government.

FILE PHOTO Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe gestures as he attends the 2nd Session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, October 3, 2017.

But the NCD Alliance, which represents 28 worldwide health groups seeking to combat chronic diseases, said it was "shocked and deeply concerned" to hear of the appointment, given Mugabe's "long track record of human rights violations".

"He (Tedros) has to remember where his funding comes from", said one health official who declined to be identified.

The agency is now grappling with a massive cholera outbreak in Yemen that has infected some 800,000 people in the past year and a plague outbreak in Madagascar that has killed almost 100 in two months.

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