After days of scathing criticism around the globe for naming Zimbabwe’s leader, Robert Mugabe, a “good-will ambassador” for health, the leader of the World Health Organization said on Sunday that he had rescinded the title.
In a statement, the W.H.O.’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “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.”
On Wednesday, at a global conference in Uruguay on noncommunicable diseases, Dr. Tedros said he was “honored” to be joined by Mr. Mugabe, 93, who could use the role “to influence his peers in his region” when it came to fighting noncommunicable diseases — such as heart attacks, strokes and asthma — in Africa.
The reaction was swift and unforgiving.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada joined a chorus of world leaders who expressed outrage or puzzlement at the appointment. Appearing in Edmonton on Saturday, Mr. Trudeau told reporters that he thought the choice of Mr. Mugabe was “a bad April Fool’s joke,” according to the local media.
Twenty-eight health organizations, including the NCD Alliance, released a statement expressing “shock” at the appointment.