The World Health Organization (WHO) has shocked and appalled many health officials from around the globe with their latest appointment of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador for their organization. Mugabe was named as the goodwill ambassador by WHO’s first African leader, Tedros Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia.
Mugabe, who has the distinction of being the world’s oldest head of state, is the target of much criticism for his human rights abuses. He has also gone overseas to seek medical treatment for himself as Zimbabwe’s “once prosperous economy” has fallen apart, according to Fox News.
Mugabe’s appointment was announced this week by Tedros at a conference in Uruguay on non-communicable diseases. The floodgates opened for shock, concern, and condemnation for this appointment almost immediately from around the globe.
Health officials worldwide have expressed their disappointment at this latest move by WHO, an organization that stands for values, unlike those demonstrated by Mugabe. The director of the Wellcome Trust, Dr. Jeremy Farrara said: “Robert Mugabe fails in every way to represent the values WHO should stand for.” Welcome Trust is a major British charitable foundation.
Farrara also said: “The decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador is deeply disappointing and wrong.” He is not alone in his thoughts on Mugabe being named a goodwill ambassador for WHO, Simmon Harris, who is Ireland’s Health Minister echoed Farrara’s sentiments on this appointment.
Harris called the appointment of Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, “offensive, bizarre,” cites Fox News. The head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, tweeted “Not the Onion,” which is a reference to the news site known for its satire. These folks aren’t alone in their concerns.
According to Fox News, there are two dozen organizations expressing the “shock” and “concerns” for WHO’s newly appointed goodwill ambassador. The World Heart Federation, Action Against Smoking and Cancer Research U.K. was one of the two dozen agencies to find this disturbing.
According to the Guardian, the UN body appointed Mugabe “to help tackle non-communicable diseases despite dire health crisis under his rule.” They also report that the “U.K.” is disappointed that Mugabe is now a WHO goodwill ambassador.
They released a statement “slamming” Mugabe’s appointment, according to Fox. The Action Against Smoking and Cancer Research stated they were “shocked and deeply concerned” and they cited Mugabe’s “long track record of human rights violations.”
Zimbabwe was once considered the region’s “prosperous breadbasket,” but that all changed. It was back in 2008 when the Physicians for Human Rights documented the Zimbabwe’s health system failures and released these findings in a report. It was a report that blamed Mugabe’s policies for leading the country into a “man-made crisis.” That reported cited the following.
“The government of Robert Mugabe presided over the dramatic reversal of its population’s access to food, clean water, basic sanitation, and healthcare.”
The group also reported that Mugabe’s policies directly led to “the shuttering of hospitals and clinics, the closing of its medical school and the beatings of health workers.”
Mugabe’s trips overseas for his own medical treatment has cost the impoverished government of Zimbabwe millions of dollars. While the healthcare system in his own country is riddled with failures.
[Featured Image by Themba Hadebe/AP Images]