The World Health Organization is under fire after it selected Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador.
The public health agency announced the decision this week, saying the African leader will focus on noncommunicable diseases such as heart attacks and strokes on the continent.
Mugabe has long been criticized for corruption and abuse of power, and the decision to name him a goodwill ambassador for WHO stunned health experts and rights activists.
“The government of Robert Mugabe has brutalized human rights activists, crushed democracy dissidents, and turned the breadbasket of Africa — and its health system — into a basket case,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which monitors the performance of WHO, a UN agency that focuses on international public health.
“The notion that the UN should now spin this country as a great supporter of health is, frankly, sickening.”
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.
“Zimbabwe … places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide health care to all,” Ghebreyesus said in making the announcement.
Zimbabwe has established a fund for noncommunicable diseases, “an innovative domestic resource mobilization approach that other countries can learn from,” WHO tweeted.