President Robert Mugabe addresses the WHO Global Conference on NCDs in Uruguay

President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday accepted an appeal by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be the first ever goodwill ambassador on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) for Africa. President Mugabe was singled out for his dedication, commitment and role in placing universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of his government policies.

 The announcement was made by WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the ongoing WHO Global Conference on NCDs in Uruguay.

It was indeed a proud moment for Zimbabwe when WHO chief made the announcement during the high level meeting of heads of state and government in Montevideo.

 President Mugabe’s demonstrated commitment is thus expected to steer the NCDs agenda in Africa to greater heights, which in turn will see a reduction in the number of people succumbing to NCD related deaths.

 “We are also honoured to be graced by President Mugabe,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.     

President Mugabe, who earlier on had presented a powerful speech appealing for a multi-sectoral approach in the fight against NCDs, was also commended for encouraging innovative funding mechanisms to fund health programmes.

The WHO director general commended President Mugabe for demonstrating the intellect to drive the NCDs agenda further.

Dr Ghebreyesus also paid tribute to Paraguay which was represented by President Horacio Cartes for its efforts in highlighting cardiovascular diseases.

Chile was acknowledged for the great strides it has made in packaging and labelling of food packages that has enabled consumers to make informed choices.

Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco was also commended for putting the cancer fight high on the health agenda in her country.

In an interview Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Walter Mzembi congratulated President Mugabe for landing such a prestigious honour saying the President’s record speaks for itself – when he was chairman of both the Southern African Community Development chairman in 2015 and African Union chairman in the same year, and how he successfully mobilised resources to assist three West African countries Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia when they were ravaged by the Ebola disease.

Non-communicable diseases are emerging as a global threat and are becoming the leading causes of death globally, killing more people each year than all other causes combined.

 However, there is lack of attention in the global development agenda, while overseas development assistance for health is only US$377 million out of the $38 billion allocation, which translate to just 1.2 percent of the total funding.