PHM-Exch> PHM Statement; PHM Zimbabwe Applauds WHO’s Stripping of Mugabe’s Ambassadorial Role

Claudio Schuftan cschuftan at
Tue Oct 24 03:11:18 PDT 2017

PHM Zimbabwe Applauds WHO’s Stripping of Mugabe’s Ambassadorial Role

PHM Zimbabwe Applauds WHO’s Stripping of Mugabe’s Ambassadorial Role 23
October 2017, Harare, Zimbabwe The People’s Health Movement (PHM) Zimbabwe
applauds the World Health Organisation (WHO) for swiftly withdrawing the
appointment of President Robert Mugabe as the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in light of the current shambolic state of
public health delivery system in Zimbabwe.

The movement was shocked by this inappropriate honour considering the
apparent lack of political will to address mounting health problems
affecting the country. First of all, financial allocation to the health
sector has continued to shrink over the past years despite government
commitment to the Abuja Declaration of allocating at least 15% of the
national cake to health.

While PHM Zimbabwe acknowledges that the current harsh economic environment
has bearing on the meagre resources being allocated to health, what is
disturbing is that the security ministries of home affairs and defence
always get well above the health sector even in these times of political
stability and peace. This clearly points to misplaced priorities and
political will to address the crisis in the health sector.

It should be noted that most of Zimbabwe’s health programmes are being
sustained by donors without which, the flagging health sector would have
ground to a complete halt years back. The Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS
programmes, Malaria, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) and
community health programmes – all these are funded by donors. About 90% of
the country’s medicines are funded by donors.

It is also fundamentally ironic that the honour came at a time when
Zimbabwe’s health situation is at its lowest ebb. The number of people
dying of non-communicable disease has increased over the past years because
they cannot afford the cost of medication. Cancer and renal patients are
selling their livestock and household goods as they struggle with
catastrophic health expenditures due to lack of a safety net.

It should be noted that only 10% of Zimbabweans have medical insurance and
the rest are struggling to pay medical bills. Even those with medical aid
are often required to pay-out of pocket because of huge shortfalls. A huge
number of rural Zimbabweans are now resorting to traditional medicine
because they cannot afford the cost of medicines and other medical

There is a critical shortage of staff in clinics and hospitals due to the
freeze on employment of health workers, not enough medicines, no equipment,
no ambulances, while emergency services have virtually ground to a halt.

What logic and justification is there in honouring a man who is running a
country where mothers are dying every week due to avoidable and preventable
pregnancy-related complications as if Zimbabwe is in a war situation? At
least 276 mothers have died of pregnancy complications between January and
September 2017. Typhoid and cholera, archaic diseases that were completely
eliminated in some parts of the world, continue to claim innocent lives in
Zimbabwe. At least 6 people have succumbed to typhoid and related diseases
since last year while 2 531 suspected typhoid cases were reported
throughout the country.

In 2008, over 4 000 Zimbabweans succumbed to cholera and since then there
continue to be sporadic outbreaks of the diseases in different parts of the
country, a clear indication of the government’s failure to contain the
medieval disease.

What is further disturbing is that the political elite have since stopped
seeking medical attention from local health institution even for very minor
ailments, preferring well-resourced foreign hospitals, a sign of lack of
confidence in their own health system. As a result, they don’t see the
urgency, let alone the need, to address the current health crisis as they
have financial means to seek medical attention elsewhere even for ANC
visits and routine dental cleaning.

As a leader of a respected international body, WHO Director-General Dr.
Tedros Ghebreyesus should have exercised due diligence well before making
such a diplomatic blunder. Questions are now being asked about whether he
is the right person to lead the health body given his failure to foresee
and judge the implications of conferring such an important honour on a man
accused of neglecting the health sector and outright gross human rights

It is our sincere hope as PHM Zimbabwe that the embarrassing withdrawal of
the global honour will jolt the government into quickly addressing the
crisis in the health sector and cleaning-up the country’s soiled human
rights record to gain back the international respect and recognition it
used to take pride in.

*Issued by the PHM Zimbabwe Steering Committee*
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