At an event to mark one-year of his passing, colleagues, mentees, as well as friends and family of the Late Babatunde Osotimehin, Nigeria’s former minister of health who died as executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was eulogized in glowing terms
The late former executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Babatunde Osotimehin (1949 – 2017) was remembered in a special event to mark one year of his passing in Abuja, Nigeria on Monday.
The event which was organized by UNFPA and Youthhub Africa as the maiden Professor Babatunde Osotimehin Annual Lecture was attended by the members of the UNFPA family in Nigeria, civil society and youth groups, academia colleagues as well as family and friends of the Late Osotimehin.
Osotimehin, a champion of youth and gender, within the context of reproductive health and rights, was a Nigerian physician and professor of clinical pathology who served as Nigeria’s minister of health between 2008 and 2010 before he was appointed to head the UNFPA – 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 – in November 2010.
While delivering the annual lecture themed: “Implication of the Population of 190 Million on Economic Development and Health/Wellbeing of Future Generations of Nigerians”, Isaac Adewole, Nigeria’s health minister described Osotimehin as a champion of sexual and reproductive health of women who dedicated his life to addressing the challenge of maternal mortality in Sub Saharan Africa.
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“He promoted the FP2020 initiative aimed at expanding women’s access to family planning services in 69 poorest countries of the world. He was passionate about women’s rights and strongly against gender discrimination,” said Adewole.
He said since over 60% of Nigeria’s population was made up of youths between the ages of 15 and 24, the interest of young people must not be taken for granted; instead it needed to be underscored, if the country truly wanted to attain sustainable economic development.
“Achieving healthy wellbeing for all and attaining economic development depend largely on whether or not we are able to effectively manage our abundant human resource; our maternal mortality is more than the global average, Nigeria contributes 15% of the global maternal mortality figures, 11 million women are dying of pregnancy and birth-related complications,” he said.
He therefore called on Nigeria to begin to harness the power that exists in its young population which he said the Buhari administration was already doing by providing youth with opportunities in the agricultural sector, and in doing so, diversifying the economy away from oil. “Africa must stop the migration of its youths to Europe through dangerous routes such as Libya.”
In his address, Eugene Kongnyuy, acting country representative of UNFPA in Nigeria, said Osotimehin dedicated his entire life and carrier towards ensuring no woman died of pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications and that women had the opportunity to give birth to the number of children they wanted and at the time they wanted.
“He believed women should not die of child birth, women should be able to have the number of children they wanted and at the time they wanted. Right from his youth, he made the right choices, right choices are not always the easy choices. We therefore need to invest in young people so they are able to make the right choices,” Kongnyuy said.
In a goodwill message, Margaret Bolaji, a youth advocate for women and youth’s sexual and reproductive rights who was also a mentee of the Late Osotimehin said he was a firm believer of the need for youth to be given the opportunity to lead.
“He believed in order to achieve any progress; the youth must take the lead, his passion for young people and marginalized adolescent girls were matched with action. He was an incurable advocate of young people; he was one of the strongest champions of the youth. He therefore succeeded in duplicating his life in many young people including myself,” said Bolaji
“Even in death, Babatunde Osotimehin is indeed an inspiration. He has indeed left a legacy that cannot be forgotten. The best we can do for Babatunde Osotimehin is to ensure that what he fought for is continually on the agenda, that young people are able to achieve their potential.”