Published On: Sat, Oct 21st, 2017

UN faces fire from social media users for appointing Robert Mugabe as Goodwill Ambassador

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Shock and condemnation continued on Saturday after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was named a “goodwill ambassador” for the World Health Organization by the agency’s first African leader.

The 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, has long been criticized at home for going overseas for medical treatment as Zimbabwe’s once-prosperous economy falls apart. Mugabe also faces United States sanctions over his government’s human rights abuses.

With Mugabe on hand, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus announced the appointment at a conference in Uruguay this week on non-communicable diseases. Dozens of health groups have reacted with shock.
Tedros, an Ethiopian who became WHO’s first African director-general this year, said Mugabe could use the role “to influence his peers in his region” on the issue. A WHO spokeswoman confirmed the comments to The Associated Press on Friday.

Zimbabwe’s healthcare system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s authoritarian regime, with most hospitals out of stock of essential medicines and supplies, and nurses and doctors regularly left unpaid.
The appointment angered international rights campaigners and opposition parties, who also accuse Mugabe of violent repression, election rigging and presiding over the country’s economic ruin.

“Given Mugabe’s appalling human rights record, calling him a goodwill ambassador for anything embarrasses WHO and Doctor Tedros,” Iain Levine, programme director at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

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