Former UNFPA Executive Director remembered for his Family Planning advocacy
Georgetown, Guyana – (June 14, 2017) First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, today, said that she was struck by former Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the late Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin’s commitment to women’s rights and empowerment, his advocacy of family planning and the reduction of teenage pregnancy, cervical cancer and the elimination of the scourge of HIV/AIDS. She was speaking at a special memoriam service held by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office for Dr. Babatunde, who passed away suddenly on June 4, 2017 at his home in West Harrison, New York, United States of America.
The 68 year-old Nigerian was a physician and global leader of public health and the empowerment of women and young people, with a strong focus on promoting human rights. His vision inspired global partners and heads of state to keep the health and rights of the world’s women, girls and youth high on the global agenda.
Mrs. Granger believes that “with his passing, we have lost a strong and vocal advocate for women’s rights and women’s health.” The First Lady recounted that she first met Dr. Osotimehin last September, during the panel discussion on the Every Caribbean Woman Every Caribbean Child Initiative at the Clinton Global Fund Annual General Meeting, noting that she was impressed with his views on sexual and reproductive health and female genital mutilation and how these negatively affect the growth and development of women and girls and by extension, the economic and social development of countries. “I believe that Dr. Babatunde’s support helped CARICOM to garner US$1.5M for the Every Caribbean Woman Every Caribbean Child Initiative at that panel discussion at the Clinton Global Fund Annual General Meeting,” the First Lady said.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Mikiko Tanaka, in her brief remarks, urged that even as Dr. Osotimehin’s death is being mourned, his ardent efforts to ensure the health and well-being of all, particularly families, be continued by his successors. “Dr. Babatunde was a great champion of health and well-being for all, women’s empowerment and young people. His voice was invaluable over the years including his time as Nigeria’s Minister of Health and Head of their AIDS agency, impressing for family planning, women’s education, children’s health and action on HIV/AIDS as vital ingredients in human progress,” she said.
Public Health Minister, Ms. Volda Lawrence, UNFPA Liaison Officer, Ms. Patrice LaFleur, Pan-American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow and other members of the Diplomatic Corps were present at the memorial service.
According to the UNFPA, Dr. Osotimehin’s professional background was in health and medicine and he had extensive knowledge of the global and national frameworks and processes critical to UNFPA’s work. After his appointment as UNFPA Executive Director, effective on January 1, 2011, he spearheaded efforts in the international community to advance the milestone consensus of the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994.
Upon moving into his second term in 2015, Dr. Osotimehin introduced new reforms that increased the effectiveness and efficiency of UNFPA and outlined a more robust vision for improving the lives of women, adolescents and youth around the world with a focus on maternal health and voluntary family planning. He also steered UNFPA’s humanitarian action and efforts around eliminating gender-based violence and other harmful practices. Dr. Osotimehin completed his medical studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1972 and received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, in 1979.