WHO removes Robert Mugabe as goodwill ambassador after widespread criticism

The decision had been described as 'shameful' and 'offensive'

WHO removes Robert Mugabe as goodwill ambassador after widespread criticism

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. Picture by: Themba Hadebe/AP/Press Association Images.

The director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has rescinded the appointment of Zimbabwe's leader Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador.

Activists had reacted with shock over the appointment of Mugabe (93) as a goodwill ambassador to help tackle noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa.

Mugabe's regime has been accused of & internationally sanctioned for a wide variety of human rights abuses & violations - and the Physicians for Human Rights group has previously reported that the health system in the country has 'utterly collapsed' under Mugabe's government.

In a statement today, WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had "reflected" on his decision and had decided to rescind the appointment.

He wrote: "I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised.

"I have also consulted with the Government of Zimbabwe and we have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization."

He added: "I remain firmly committed to working with all countries and their leaders to ensure that every one has access to the health care they need.

"We must build bridges that bring us together and help us move forward in our quest to achieve universal health coverage."

Among the international critics of the WHO's decision were prominent figures in the Irish health system.

Health Minister Simon Harris had described the decision as "offensive" and "bizarre", while HSE Director General Tony O'Brien said the appointment was "shameful".