World Health Organization rescinds Mugabe goodwill role

3 2017 Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe during his meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria South Africa. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe has been named a goodwill ambassador, on the issue of non-communicable diseases.

The WHO leader faced criticism in the wake of the decision from the worldwide community and public figures in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe has been in power for 37 years and the public health system is rife with problems.

Ghebreyesus said his decision was in the "best interests" of the United Nations agency and that he had consulted with the Zimbabwe government about his decision.

Opponents were angered by the appointment, pointing to the health crisis in the African country under his leadership, as well as the human rights abuses perpetrated by his regime.

The WHO's new chief Tedros Ghebreyesus is making the longtime African leader, 93, a goodwill ambassador to help tackle non-communicable diseases such as heart attacks and strokes across Africa.

Britain called the decision "surprising and disappointing, particularly in light of the current USA and European Union sanctions against him".

Downing Street said it had raised concerns with World Health Organization calling Mugabe's appointment "surprising and disappointing particularly in light of the current U.S. and European Union sanctions against him".

Health and human rights leaders chimed in.

A Downing Street spokesman said British diplomats had raised serious concerns with the director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, over the decision to offer the high-profile role to the controversial Zimbabwean president.

Ireland's health minister, Simon Harris, called the appointment "offensive, bizarre".

"Mugabe trashed our health delivery system".

The revelation was made in a statement on Sunday following widespread criticism. The choices are not subject to approval. The comic book heroine Wonder Woman was removed from her honorary United Nations ambassador job in December following protests that a white, skimpily dressed American prone to violence wasn't the best role model for girls.

Outside Zimbabwe, many World Health Organization member-states and rights groups criticised Mugabe's appointment.

Physicians for Human Rights found his government had "presided over the dramatic reversal of its population's access to food, clean water, basic sanitation and health care".

Mr Mugabe also faces USA sanctions over his government's human rights abuses.

Mugabe, 93, has always been criticised at home for going overseas for medical treatment as Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy falls apart.

Multiple critics noted that Mugabe, who is 93 and in increasingly fragile health, travels overseas for medical care because Zimbabwe's health care system has been so severely decimated.

The 2003 imposed targeted sanctions, a travel ban and an asset freeze against Mugabe and close associates, citing his government's rights abuses and evidence of electoral fraud.

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