WHO appoints Mugabe global health ambassador

HARARE - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday appointed President Robert Mugabe as a global health ambassador for Africa to help governments tackle chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease.

Mugabe, Africa’s oldest ruler at 93, will work with national and local politicians to highlight the heavy economic and health burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), United Nations health agency said.

WHO director-general Tedros Ad-hanom Ghebreyesus said Mugabe’s appointment would enable governments to “strengthen our response together” to these “major public health challenges”.

NCDs and injuries are responsible for 43 million deaths each year, according to the WHO - almost 80 percent of all deaths worldwide - but the much of the premature death and disability they cause could be prevented with lifestyle-targeted measures.

Mugabe’s role will be to encourage policies aimed at reducing peoples’ exposure to the main risk factors - tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diets and lack of exercise.

WHO global ambassador roles are for an initial period of two years and are unpaid.

Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi hailed the appointment.

“This is a major health diplomacy coup for Zimbabwe and should be celebrated given the adverse impact of NCDs on the well-being of Zimbabweans particularly cancers, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and mental health diseases,” Mzembi told the Daily News from Montevideo yesterday.

“President Mugabe has in the past acquitted himself in health diplomacy, and most recently his advocacy for resource mobilisation for Ebola stricken countries, Liberia, Guniea, and Sierra Leone at the United Nations in 2015, is still very fresh and widely acknowledged by the beneficiary countries.”

He said it was on the back of this legacy that it was only appropriate to lobby for a distinguished role for him in the fight for NCDs, “which clearly need a champion in Africa.”

“NCDs  command only a 1,2 percent funding share of the $38 billion budget for Health from overseas development assistance (ODA), some $377million only although they claim over 14 million lives a year

“Their invisibility on the global development agenda, requires a respected Statesman to champion the cause especially at this formative and conceptual stage of crafting a roadmap to the High Level Forum diarised for the United Nations 2018, General Assembly.

“Therefore the Montevideo Roadmap has been handed to the right pair of hands for its escalation to the African Union , through President Mugabe who is very passionate about NCDs, and delivered a very well received country report on Zimbabwe's own efforts in this area,” Mzembi said.

The Montevideo Roadmap highlights the need for coordinated and coherent action from all sectors and the whole of society, as many of the main drivers of ill health lie outside the control of health ministries, systems and professionals.

Non-State actors, including civil so-ciety and industry, have important roles to play.

Comments (15)

What a pity that his government doesn't divert his travel expenses to upgrade our hospitals and importing necessary medicines.

Gogo - 19 October 2017

If this is true it is ludicrous. How can someone be appointed to such a position when all his healthcare needs are met outside the continent of Africa. He doesn't even go to RSA, a place where other politicians appear to rate highly.?

derek stocker - 20 October 2017

Some of our social problems are fuelled by such stupid organisations as WHO, World Bank, IMF. They are a conduit for African corruption and despondency. Misatanyoko!

Chikowore - 20 October 2017

Everyday is April Fools day in Zimbabwe comrades !

ace mukadota - 20 October 2017

Absolutely ridiculous. The man deserves jail, not honours.

Roobarb - 21 October 2017

Next the North Korean dictator will receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Mugabe must die soon and Zimababwe will be free.

j karna - 21 October 2017

Shameful and despicable actions by someone, appointed to deal with the 'Politicization of the WHO'. If this appointment is the poster child of politicization of the WHO, then God help us all. The health care system in Zimbabwe is dead, Public health is in the toilet and NCDs related poor dietary lifestyle choices are on the rise in Zimbabwe, primarily because the country has been impoverished by Mugabe's misguided policies of cronyism. This Tedros idiot must rescind his decision and offer an apology to the people of Zimbabwe and indeed the whole world. Shame on the WHO if this does not get reversed..

gudo - 22 October 2017

The president may well have delivered a good speech on the problem of NCDs, but even in this area, the WHO is misguided. Trauma, mainly from road accidents, poses by far a more major, debilitating or fatal problem for health, especially as, unlike NCDs, trauma affects mainly the young, the fit and healthy and the economically active. Furthermore where one such suffers, another is taken out of the economy to care for him or her. Trauma requires surgical care, and for this patients have to pay up front in Zimbabwe even when the case is an emergency. The result is obvious: people die from minor injuries which could easily have been treated, or are permanently maimed because they are not dealt with effectively. There are hardly no surgeons working in the districts, the infrastructure is in shambles, and hospital staff are demotivated. What use is it for pregnant women to attend 8 times instead of 4 when there is no effective treatment available? Maternal mortality is a sure indicator of economic collapse and needs more than playing with figures in a global recommendation to fix.

M Farjj - 22 October 2017

THAT'S NOT A GOOD DECISION. its like awarding the Nobel prize to the doctors in the Tuskegee syphilis study.

Forbeska - 22 October 2017

THAT'S NOT A GOOD DECISION. its like awarding the Nobel prize to the doctors in the Tuskegee syphilis study.

Forbeska - 22 October 2017

The appointment has been removed after world outcry.

Jon Williams - 22 October 2017

The WHO has reversed this stupid and foolhardy decision. I can not imagine anyone in their right mind sticking with such an obviously bad decision. As for your posting @Farjj, I think your point is well taken about trauma. However, if you look at the trajectory of NCDs in Zimbabwe, and generally in Africa, these disease will cost us more, and their effects (although delayed), are far more consequential in my opinion.

gudo - 22 October 2017

Well the good news Folks, is that this Mugabe man has now in the past few hours ,been removed from this post. This man is seen around the world as evil and should never have been appointed in the first place. Better he did something good for Zimbabwe and resign from his presidency, appointed by foul dishonest means.

Denis Doyle - 22 October 2017

Google "Why TPLF is desperately fighting for Dr Tedros to be next DG of WHO?" in ECAD forum then you will understand how this not so bright idea came about. A little bit of lobbying by Walter Mzembi also helped.

Galore - 26 October 2017

The number of patients suffering from NCDs are rising day by day. These issues need to be addressed as soon as possible as it is not only the genes but modifiable risk factors like the lifestyle that bring about these disease conditions. https://goo.gl/PJHV6z

Kumudini - 2 November 2017

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