This past weekend, the World Health Organization announced the appointment of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as its Goodwill Ambassador. In response, many world leaders denounced the organization’s decision. The British government issued a statement saying that the appointment “risks overshadowing the work undertaken globally by the WHO on non-communicable diseases.”
At 93, Mugabe is oldest serving state leader. In 2013, he sought re-election for the 6th time. During his thirty plus years as president of Zimbabwe, Mugabe has overseen the decline of the nation’s economy which he attributes to personal vendettas against him by European governments who want him out of office, especially because of his impeding political freedom…
Mugabe is also to blame for the decimation of Zimbabwe’s health care system, and life expectancy rates in the nation have fallen drastically during his time in office.
The appointment comes after the recent election of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, former Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs, as Director General of the WHO. Adhanom, who received the African Union and Ethiopian government’s support in his election, has been the subject of criticism from skeptics who question the legitimacy of his election. Because of Adhanom’s wide support, many question if a “backroom deal” was made between Adhanom and his supporters to secure Mugabe’s appointment.
The bad press that the WHO has received in light of the announcement only worsens the perception of the organization. Many hoped that Tedros would make up for the “egregious failure,” that was the WHO’s response to the Ebola outbreak of 2014.
Adhanom has said that Zimbabwe “places universal health coverage, health promotion at the centre of its policies.” Many express disbelief over this statement as Mugabe doesn’t even seek health care services in his own country, making routine visits to Singapore to receive medical attention.
He also added that he and others hope that Mugabe will “influence his peers in his region.” This statement is concerning as Mugabe has done little to improve the state of health care in Zimbabwe, arguably undermining more than he could aide it.