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President Robert Mugabe made WHO goodwill ambassador

The surprise move was announced by the first African director-general of the World Health Organisation.

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Mr Mugabe (L) and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (R) at the event in Uruguay

Campaigners have expressed shock after Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe was appointed as a "goodwill ambassador" by the World Health Organisation.

The WHO’s new director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the decision at a conference in Uruguay, praising Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health.

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, an Ethiopian who became the WHO’s first African head this year, said Mr Mugabe could use the role "to influence his peers in his region".

In his speech, Mr Tedros described Zimbabwe as "a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all".

The honour drew a scathing response from two dozen organisations including the World Heart Federation, Action Against Smoking and Cancer Research UK.

In a statement they highlighted Mr Mugabe’s "long track record of human rights violations" and said health officials "were shocked and deeply concerned".

UN agencies typically choose celebrities as ambassadors to draw attention to issues of concern, but they hold little actual power.

Last year, the UN dropped the superhero Wonder Woman as an ambassador for "empowering girls and women" after the decision drew widespread criticism.

Dr Tedros replaced Margaret Chan, who stepped down from her 10-year post in June.


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