It sounds like an oxymoron for President Robert Mugabe’s detractors, and at first sight appears to be fake news… but Zimbabwe’s President has indeed been appointed to serve as Goodwill Ambassador on NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases) for Africa.
The announcement was made at the WHO Global Conference on NCDs – being held in Montevideo, Uruguay – by Ethiopian politician and WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In the eyes of WHO, Zimbabwe is apparently a shining example to the rest of the continent on how to treat and prevent NCDs. Dr Tedros said Zimbabwe established a levy fund for NCDs, which he described as “an innovative domestic resource mobilization approach” that other countries can learn from.
The news came as a bit of a surprise to many in Zimbabwe who allege that Mugabe himself prefers to fly regularly to Singapore for treatment rather than risk being admitted to one of the reportedly run-down hospitals in his own country!
According to the Telegraph newspaper, human rights activists in Zimbabwe have accused WHO of hypocrisy in the appointment, saying that the 93-year-old seeks medical treatment abroad because he has run Zimbabwe’s health system into the ground since he became president back in 1980. They have questioned WHO’s motives.
In the words of Dr Tedros, who said he was “honoured” to be joined by Mugabe, the motive is that Zimbabwe is “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all”.
Dr Tedros said he was “honoured to announce that President Mugabe has agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador on NCDs for Africa to influence his peers in his region to prioritize NCDs.”
During his address Dr Tedros also said the fight against NCDs (including cancer, heart and lung disease, diabetes and others) is critical… as NCDs kill 15 million people every year in the prime of their lives.
“How can we claim the world is fair when the healthiest food is out of reach of the poorest people, when companies put profit before health, and the cheapest food is the most hazardous?” he said.
Dr Tedros said the lost productivity and treatment costs of NCDs “impoverish families and hold nations back”.
He said the “NCD epidemic is playing out like a horror story before our very eyes. Hundreds of millions of children are obese and overweight.
“Most of those children would not be obese if they could eat a healthy diet and be physically active.
“Unless we act now, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and lung diseases lie ahead.”
— WHO (@WHO) October 19, 2017