WHO reverses decision to elect Robert Mugabe as ambassador

The decision to rescind the appointment of the Zimbabwe president has raised questions over the leadership of the WHO’s first African director general Tedros Adhanom

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AFTER facing global criticism, the World Health Organization has rescinded the appointment of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador.

“I have… consulted with the government of Zimbabwe and we have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization,” said the WHO’s new director-general, Tedros Adhanom.

Tedros announced the appointment last week, praising Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage… at the centre of its policies.” He said Mugabe could use the role “to influence his peers in his region” when it came to fighting diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.

Several world leaders and health organisations were outraged by the decision, noting that Zimbabwe’s health system has collapsed under Mugabe’s regime. Medical workers often go unpaid, the country’s life expectancy is lower than in the 1980s, and almost half of all deaths as a result of childbirth are avoidable. The president travels abroad for his own medical treatment.

“This appointment clearly contradicts the United Nations ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity,” said the US State Department in a statement to the Associated Press. “Given Mugabe’s appalling human rights record, calling him a Goodwill Ambassador for anything embarrasses WHO and Dr Tedros,” said Iain Levine of the charity Human Rights Watch.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Goodwill rescinded”

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