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Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has been named the new Goodwill Ambassador by WHO

New WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health

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Robert Mugabe
President of Zimbabwe and Chairman of the African Union Robert Mugabe. Wikimedia
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United Nations, October 21, 2017 : The World Health Organization (WHO) has appointed Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador to help tackle non-communicable diseases.

New WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health, BBC reported on Saturday.

But critics say Zimbabwe’s health care system has collapsed, with the president and many of his senior ministers going abroad for treatment.

They say that staff are often unpaid and medicines are in short supply.

Tedros, who is Ethiopian, is the first African to lead the WHO and replaced Margaret Chan, who stepped down from her 10-year post in June.

He was elected with a mandate to tackle perceived politicisation in the organisation.

The WHO head praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all”.

But US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said it was an embarrassment to give the ambassador role to Mugabe given his record on human rights.

“If you look at Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s corruption, his utter mismanagement of the economy has devastated health services there,” said executive director Kenneth Roth.

“Indeed, you know, Mugabe himself travels abroad for his health care. He’s been to Singapore three times this year already. His senior officials go to South Africa for their health care.

“When you go to Zimbabwean hospitals, they lack the most basic necessities.”

The idea of hailing Mr Robert Mugabe “as any kind of example of positive contribution to health care is absolutely absurd”, he added.

President Robert Mugabe heard about the award while attending a conference held by the WHO, a UN agency, on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Montevideo.

He told delegates how his country had adopted several strategies to combat the challenges presented by NCDs, which the WHO says kill about 40 million people a year and include cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes.

“Zimbabwe has developed a national NCD policy, a palliative care policy, and has engaged United Nations agencies working in the country, to assist in the development of a cervical cancer prevention and control strategy,” Mugabe was reported by the state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper as saying.

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But the President admitted that Zimbabwe was similar to other developing countries in that it was “hamstrung by a lack of adequate resources for executing programmes aimed at reducing NCDs and other health conditions afflicting the people”.

Zimbabwe’s main MDC opposition party also strongly criticised the WHO move.

“The Zimbabwe health delivery system is in a shambolic state, it is an insult,” said spokesman Obert Gutu.

“Robert Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.” (IANS)

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Brazil to vaccinate entire population against yellow fever

Thirty-four million people need to be vaccinated there, with 23 million in the northeast and 11 million in the south of the country

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Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease found in tropical Africa and South and Central America.
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease found in tropical Africa and South and Central America. Wikimedia Commons

Brazilian Health Minister Ricardo Barros has proposed to vaccinate the entire country against yellow fever after the disease emerged in new areas.

The recommendation will now be discussed with international organisations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

At the start of February, vaccination efforts began in states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, seeking to immunize 19.7 million people against yellow fever, for which cases have been rising since last year, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to Barros on Thursday, if the government approves the idea, separate programs will take place in each state of the country.

Also Read: Study: Partial Dose of Yellow Fever Vaccine Provides Protection

Barros added that the vaccination campaign should be rolled out gradually, according to the capacity of each state.

Certain northeastern and southern regions of the country have not seen campaigns so far, as there have been no outbreaks of yellow fever there.

At the start of February, vaccination efforts began in states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia.
At the start of February, vaccination efforts began in states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. Wikimedia Commons

Thirty-four million people need to be vaccinated there, with 23 million in the northeast and 11 million in the south of the country.

A plant belonging to Libbs Farmaceutica in Sao Paulo is currently about to begin production of 4 million doses of the vaccine a month.

From July 1, 2017, to February 20, 2018, Brazil has confirmed 545 cases of yellow fever, with 164 deaths.

A further 1,773 suspected cases have been noted, with 685 having been eliminated and 422 still under investigation. (IANS)