Dr Babatunde Oshotimehin, born 6 February 1949, was a former Minister of Health of Nigeria, dedicated a good part of his life to improve the lives of others. As Executive Director of UNFPA, he sought to improve the lives of women, adolescents and youth around the world. HRP is privileged to have worked with UNFPA, including during Dr Osotimehin’s leadership, on the issues closest to his heart. His passionate engagement in key issues around sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) was much valued and will be greatly missed.
Under Dr Osotimehin’s leadership, UNFPA’s commitment and contribution to strengthening access to high-quality contraceptive services around the world, especially for adolescent girls and young women, is a testament to his vision and drive. Dr Osotimehin understood well the need to improve maternal health, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, and his dedication to ending obstetric fistula was evident in the establishment of the Campaign to End Fistula.
Babatunde Osotimehin Biography and Profile
Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, passed away suddenly during the evening of 4 June 2017 in his home in West Harrison, New York. Born on 6 February 1949, the 68 yearold 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 in population and development.
Babatunde Osotimehin Professional Background
Over the course of his career, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin consistently strived to advance global leadership for public health, youth empowerment and gender equality. His conviction that access to quality health care should be an integral part of what we define as human rights, is a thread that can be identified throughout his professional career, from his academic contributions to various prestigious institutions, to his service as Minister of Health in Nigeria, and in particular during his rich tenure as Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA.
Dr. Osotimehin’s passion and commitment to the health field was an integral part of his life from his early years growing up in Nigeria, when it became apparent that an individual’s access to quality health services or lack thereof, could often times determine the entire trajectory of their life. This realization informed his decision to eventually pursue medicine and ultimately earn his Doctorate Degree of Medicine from the University of Birmingham in 1979. During the course of his studies, he also earned a number of academic fellowships including a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Cornell Medical School, Fellowship of the Nigerian Postgraduate Medical College, Fellowship of the West African Postgraduate Medical College, and Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of London.
Dr. Osotimehin assumed office with a clear vision, The Agenda for Health, which formed the basis for the larger task of developing the National Strategic Health Development Plan (NSHDP) that was to be implemented in all 37 States of the Federation. He led the process of costing the Five-Year Plan while taking into account the complexity and challenges of running the Nigerian health sector. The plan was ultimately approved by the Government of Nigeria and has since been adjudged to be the best health plan Nigeria has ever produced.
This strong academic foundation catalysed his professional efforts to inspire new innovation and breakthroughs in medicine and led to prominent contributions to the field of medicine in the form of research and study. These contributions span over 71 scholarly books, commentaries and publications in peer reviewed journals including the British Medical Journal, the African Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences (of which he served as Editor from 1994 – 2001), the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, and the Lancet among others. Dr. Osotimehin also served as Provost of the College of Medicine at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and Coordinator of the Social Sciences and Reproductive Health Research Network.
Another key outcome during the period Dr. Osotimehin served as Minister of Health included the dramatic reduction in the number of reported cases of wild polio virus in Nigeria. The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged that 90% of the progress made in the effort to eradicate polio worldwide in 2009 was attributable to Nigeria’s achievements alone. Additionally, a major landmark programme that was spearheaded by the Ministry of Health under his leadership and guidance was the National Malaria Control Programme. At the time, Nigeria had the largest burden of disease for malaria in Africa that immediately prompted Dr. Osotimehin to prioritize the urgent mobilization of resources to address this major public health issue.
These advocacy efforts led to the raising of approximately $1 billion from different sources to devote to this critical issue. Dr. Osotimehin proposed that part of these funds be used to distribute two insecticide-treated bed nets per Nigerian household (equalling 63 million nets). By the time he left office, the Ministry of Health had distributed 22 million nets and the process remains actively ongoing. In addition to the nets, the raised funds were used to provide free medication to pregnant women and children suffering from malaria and the implementation of other preventative measures.
Following his service at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Osotimehin was appointed as the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund in January 2011. UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. UNFPA supports reproductive health care for women and young people in more than 150 countries around the world and provides reliable access to modern contraceptives that benefit over 20 million women a year. The organization also spearheads the training of thousands of health workers; facilitation of national censuses, data collection and analyses, which are essential for development planning; delivery of safe birth supplies, dignity kits and other life-saving materials to survivors of conflict and natural disaster; global efforts to prevent gender-based violence, and the fight for the abandonment of female genital mutilation and child marriage.
The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994, and its resulting Programme of Action are the steering forces behind UNFPA’s global efforts. In 2014, Dr. Osotimehin led the 20-year review of the ICPD and was determined to ensure that UNFPA, in close collaboration with development partners, governments, and other key stakeholders, continued to actively implement the ICPD Programme of Action.
A critical part of this work that Dr. Osotimehin was leading involved drawing international attention to Africa’s potential demographic dividend and working closely with high-level government officials all over the continent to ensure that this opportunity for economic and social advancement is seized by their respective countries. Dr. Osotimehin was also serving as Co-Chair of the Family Planning 2020, a global partnership that works with governments, civil society, donors, the private sector, and the research and development community to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020; and as the Chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Population Dynamics.
The year 2015 marked the end of the Millennium Development Goals and heralded the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 global goals being spearheaded by the UN and implemented globally. Dr. Osotimehin’s dual role as Executive Director of UNFPA and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations allowed him to maximize the impact of his persistent determination to fight for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people.
Dr. Osotimehin was greatly respected among his peers as a visionary leader, and champion for the most marginalized. His achievements are unparalleled and the substantial impact of his life’s work on the world can never be fully measured. His immense legacy will undoubtedly live on through the millions of lives he has touched.
Professor Babatunde Osotimehin passed away suddenly during the evening of 4 June 2017 in his home in West Harrison, New York. Secretary-General Mourns Babatunde Osotimehin, Hailing Population Fund Chief’s Forceful Advocacy for Women, Girls, ‘Invaluable Voice’ on Vital Health Issues. The following statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres was issued today:
I am profoundly saddened by the sudden passing of my good colleague and friend, Babatunde Osotimehin. I offer sincere condolences to his family, to the staff of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to the Government and people of Nigeria, and to all those around the world touched by this loss.
The world has lost a great champion of health and well-being for all. Dr. Babatunde was admired globally for his leadership of the United Nations Population Fund and for his forceful advocacy for the world’s women and girls in particular.
Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are among the most important, and often sensitive, on the international agenda; Dr. Babatunde’s calm yet ardent efforts helped families get the sexual and reproductive health services they need, and helped the world advance the landmark 1994 Cairo Programme of Action on Population and Development. His voice was invaluable over the years, including his time as Nigeria’s Minister for Health, in pressing for family planning, women’s education, children’s health and action on HIV/AIDS as vital ingredients in human progress.
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin was married and had five children and several grandchildren.
Professor Dr. Babatunde Oshotimehin Biography and Profile (Babatunde Oshotimehin)