Canada calls for Mugabe WHO appointment to be rescinded without delay

Emilio Banks
October 24, 2017

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African head of the the United Nations agency, has received a raft of criticism from worldwide rights campaigner and others for the appointment.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 22 October 2017 cancelled the appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's appointment as its Goodwill Ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Africa.

He said: "I'm listening". I hear your concerns. It might therefore be surprising that he couldn't hold down a goodwill ambassadorial role for long following his ouster from the position after just four days; making him one of the briefest-serving World Health Organization goodwill ambassadors.

The largely ceremonial role was conferred on Mugabe, 93, by Ghebreyesus last Friday.

The statement did not explain what Tedros hoped to gain by appointing Mugabe to the ceremonial role in the first place, though it talked of the need to work with all governments to meet the WHO's goal of health care for all.

"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.

The appointment was condemned by two dozen health organisations. "We have had 37 frightful years with Mugabe in power", Biti said.

"The decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as a World Health Organization goodwill ambassador is deeply disappointing and wrong", said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a British charity.

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The world's oldest head of state has long faced US sanctions over his government's human rights abuses, as well as criticism at home for going overseas for medical treatment.

"The notion that the United Nations should now spin this country as a great supporter of health is, frankly, sickening", he said.

Critics had described the appointment as 'surprising and disappointing'.

Tedros, a former Ethiopian official, became WHO's first African director-general this year.

World Health Organization had earlier on Saturday pointed to Zimbabwe's record on tobacco, non communicable diseases (NCD) and Tedros' desire to engage senior politicians as justifications for the Mugabe honour.

The appointment is "laughable", said Obert Gutu, the spokesman for MDC, the main opposition party in Zimbabwe. Mugabe's policies led directly to "the shuttering of hospitals and clinics, the closing of its medical school and the beatings of health workers".

But the NCD Alliance, which represents 28 global 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".

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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