World Health Organization chief 'rethinking' appointment of Robert Mugabe as goodwill ambassador

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The 93-year-old Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, has always been criticized at home for going overseas for medical treatment as Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy falls apart and the country's health care system deteriorates. I hear your concerns.

"Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs (non-communicable diseases) in Africa".

Mugabe, 93, is blamed in the West for destroying Zimbabwe's economy and numerous human rights abuses during his 37 years leading the country as either president or prime minister. "Robert Mugabe fails in every way to represent the values World Health Organization should stand for".

Health Minister Simon Harris described the decision as "offensive" and "bizarre", while HSE Director General Tony O'Brien said the appointment was "shameful". Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, tweeted: 'Mugabe corruption decimates Zimbabwe health care'.

Critics pointed out that most of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, can not be treated by Zimbabwe hospitals as they do not have cash to import drugs.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he chose to rescind his appointment of Mugabe, 93, after listening to the flood of outrage and concerns voiced by global leaders and health experts. A World Health Organization spokeswoman confirmed the comments to The Associated Press.

The groups said they had raised their concerns with Tedros on the sidelines of the conference, to no avail.

United Nations agencies often name high profile personalities as goodwill ambassadors to draw attention to their work. They also can be fired.

Zimbabwe's government says it respects the decision by Mr Ghebreyesus to withdraw the appointment. "The Zimbabwe health delivery system is in a shambolic state, it is an insult", the spokesman Obert Gutu said.

"The government of Robert Mugabe presided over the dramatic reversal of its population's access to food, clean water, basic sanitation and health care", the group concluded.

FILE PHOTO Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe gestures as he attends the 2nd Session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, October 3, 2017.

The 93-year-old Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has come under criticism at home for his frequent overseas travels that have cost impoverished Zimbabwe millions of dollars.

The choice of Mugabe for the role has also angered opposition parties in Zimbabwe and human rights campaigners who accuse the leader of violent repression, election rigging and presiding over the country's economic ruin.

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