The World Health Organization (W.H.O) which is an agency of the United Nations (UN) has been lambasted since Friday for naming Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe a “goodwill ambassador” to promote health causes, despite the country’s dire health crisis under his rule.
Mugabe, 93, was in Uruguay for the announcement by WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said he was “honoured to announce that President Mugabe has agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador on NCDs for Africa.”
Tedros hailed Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all”.
The UN World Health Organization asked Mugabe to serve in the role to help tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart attacks, ‘Stroke’ and ‘asthma’ across Africa.
According to WHO, non-communicable diseases are by far the leading cause of death in the world, killing more than 36 million people each year. UN agencies such as WHO, UNHCR and UNESCO all appoint goodwill ambassadors to highlight specific causes and often draw publicity.
The appointment angered international rights campaigners and opposition parties, who also accuse Mugabe of violent repression, election rigging and presiding over the country’s economic ruin.
The UK government has also criticised the World Health Organization’s decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador”, calling the move “surprising and disappointing”. Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, is in increasingly fragile health and makes regular trips abroad for medical treatment.
Zimbabwe’s healthcare system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s authoritarian regime, with most hospitals out of stock of essential medicines and supplies, and nurses and doctors regularly left unpaid.
Is it a case of ‘give a dog a bad name and hang him?’ We would like to know your thoughts on this.