WHO cancels Mugabe ambassador role

AFP
The head of the World Health Organization yesterday reversed his decision to name Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, following widespread uproar.
AFP
Reuters

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses a meeting of his ruling ZANU PF party's youth league in Harare, Zimbabwe, October 7, 2017.

The head of the World Health Organization yesterday reversed his decision to name Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, following widespread uproar.

“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for (Non-communicable diseases) in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment,” the head of the UN agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.

Tedros, who took charge of WHO in July, said he had “listened carefully” to those who condemned the decision and spoken to the Harare government.

“We have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization.”

Tedros announced the appointment earlier last week during a speech in Uruguay, where he praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all.”

But activists, public health experts and key WHO donors like Britain, Canada and the United States swiftly denounced any prospective role for Mugabe, saying Zimbabwe’s healthcare system has collapsed under his 37 years of rule.

Tedros said yesterday his goal was “to build political leadership and create unity around bringing health to all.”

The WHO boss had faced mounting pressure to reverse the decision, including from some of the leading voices in global public health.

“The Mugabe appointment, coming at the end of (Tedros’s) first 100 days, was a misstep,” the director of the Global Health Institute at Harvard University, Ashish K. Jha, said in an e-mail shortly before the WHO decision was announced.

“Reversing will actually be a strong sign that the leadership listens and is willing to be responsive to views of the global public,” he added.

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