World Health Organization chief 'rethinking' after Mugabe honour outrage

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The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said he is "rethinking" his decision to name Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador in the face of growing criticism over the move.

But critics say Mr Mugabe's policy and his long record of alleged human rights abuses have had a disastrous impact on the health system - with medicine shortages and staff going unpaid.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian and WHO's first African director-general, said Mugabe will use his role to ensure other leaders on the continent make noncommunicable diseases a priority.

Trudeau told reporters he was dismayed by the choice of 93-year-old Mugabe, who has long faced US sanctions over his government's human rights abuses, as well as criticism at home for going overseas for medical treatment.

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The 93-year-old Mugabe has been criticized at home for going overseas for medical treatment as his once-prosperous country's economy suffers.

It led Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Doug Coltart to take took to Twitter to question how WHO felt about having "a Goodwill Ambassador who destroyed the health sector in his country".

In announcing the appointment in Uruguay's capital this week, Tedros had 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".

Jeremy Farrar, a leading global health specialist and director of the Wellcome Trust charity also said the decision was "deeply disappointing and wrong" and called on Tedros to be fearless and reverse it.

Zimbabwe has established a fund for noncommunicable diseases, "an innovative domestic resource mobilization approach that other countries can learn from", World Health Organization tweeted. "Brave leaders are willing to listen, rethink and overturn bad decisions, this is one such case", he said.

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"Dr. Tedros has frequently talked of his determination to build a global movement to promote high level political leadership for health", spokesman Christian Lindmeier said in an email.

"Zimbabwe's government has not commented on Mugabe's appointment, but a state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper headline called it a "new feather" in the president's cap".

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based group UN Watch described the choice by World Health Organization, a United Nations agency as "sickening".

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