Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the newly appointed WHO Director-General came under fire from NGOs and the public after his appointment of dictatorial Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe to the WHO Goodwill Ambassador on October 19th.
This placement was then rescinded by the Director-General on October 22nd due to the mounting pressure against him and the WHO. The 93-year-old leader was removed from his position while Dr. Tedros, repeated that “ the worldwide movement for global health” he aims to build “must work for everyone and include everyone”.
Dr. Tedros, the first African leader of the WHO and the former Ethiopian Foreign Minister and Health Minister, has shown that he is part of the African old guard making an appointment on political lines rather than that of merit-based appointments. This comes to light when his appointment to the WHO was backed by Zimbabwe and the kickback was this Goodwill Ambassador position.
This appointment came as a shock as most of the world knows Mugabe’s 37-year rule of Zimbabwe as fraught with the decimated economy, tyrannical rule, and an all but lifeless healthcare system. So, where does this decision have its roots in some semblance of merit?
Dr. Tedros, when making the announcement of his appointment made reference to Zimbabwe “as a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all”. This is in stark contrast to the reality of the situation. Medicines to treat patients are in short supply added to this it has healthcare workers that go often unpaid. With the system only barely staying afloat with the assistance of international aid. According to the WHO, only one functioning MRI and mammogram machine in operation for the entire country in the public healthcare sector.
This while the WHO Director-General remarks that the leader was the right person to fight to lead the WHO’s fight against NCDs. This from a leader that can be directly linked to the health crisis and the plummeting health of the citizens of his nation.
There is no real indication nor will there most likely be in the reasoning for the appointment in his very short tenure as the Director-General. This monumental blunder in the face of the world has lost Dr. Tedros, the faith and trust he needs to have to carry this important position.