UNFPA head Babatunde Osotimehin, champion of girls and women, dies

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The head of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin, a champion for girls’ and women’s health, has died suddenly at his home, the UNFPA said on Monday.

“This is a devastating loss for UNFPA and for the people, especially women, girls and youth, he dedicated his life to serving, starting from when he became a doctor in Nigeria,” the U.N. agency said in a statement. The cause of death was unclear.

“Dr. Osotimehin was bold and never afraid of a challenge and his strong leadership helped keep the health and rights of the world’s women and girls high on the global agenda.”

Osotimehin, a former Nigerian health minister, was particularly committed to ending preventable maternal deaths, tackling unmet demand for family planning and eliminating harmful practices against women and girls, UNFPA said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted: “I mourn the death of UNFPA chief Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. Our world lost a great champion of well-being for all, especially women & girls.”

Osotimehin, who was 68, had headed the UNFPA since 2011.

He was Nigerian minister of health from 2008 to 2010 and before that served as director-general of his country’s National Agency for the Control of AIDS.

Osotimehin qualified as a doctor from the University of Ibadan, in 1972, and subsequently received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Birmingham, England.

He was married with five children and several grandchildren.

– By Thomson Reuters Foundation