Babatunde Osotimehin, former health minister, is dead

Babatunde Osotimehin
Babatunde Osotimehin
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Former Minister of Health and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin is dead.


His son, Dr. Babajide, announced his death in a statement, yesterday.

Babajide said the former minister, who also served as pioneer director general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), died on Sunday, June 4, 2017, in New York, United States of America, at 68.

Osotimehin was born on February 6, 1949, in Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State.


He attended Igbobi College between 1966 and 1971 and after his medical studies at the University of Ibadan, Osotimehin received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, in 1979.

The late Osotimehin later  became a professor at the University of Ibadan, in 1980, and headed the Department of Clinical Pathology before being elected Provost of the College of Medicine in 1990. He has served as chair and member of several academic and health organisations, including Chair of the National Action Committee on AIDS, between 2002 and 2007.

Prior to his appointment at UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, Osotimenhin served as the Minister of Health of Nigeria. He left office in March 2010 when then acting President Goodluck Jonathan dissolved the cabinet. He was succeeded by Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu.


Osotimehin was later appointed on November 19, 2010 as executive director of UNFPA for a four-year term.

He was re-appointed to this position on August 21 2014.

Osotimehin was a global leader of public health, women’s empowerment and young people, particularly focused on promoting human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as population and development.


Upon moving into his second term, in 2015, 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 youths around the world. His leadership and advocacy with governments and other key stakeholders continued to focus on youths and voluntary family planning. He also, until his death, steered UNFPA’s humanitarian action and efforts around eliminating gender-based violence and other harmful practices.

He had extensive knowledge of the global and national frameworks and processes that were critical to UNFPA’s work. and served in various advisory boards and councils.

Osotimehin chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Demographic Dividend and was also a Global Agenda Trustee for the Forum’s Global Challenge on Economic Growth and Social Inclusion, and co-chairs the Family Planning 2020 Reference Group.


Tributes have been pouring in from Nigerians.

National President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Dr. Mike Ogirima described Osotimehin’s death as a great loss to the medical profession and the entire country.

Ogirima said the former minister would be remembered for his immense contributions to repositioning healthcare delivery in the country and globally, through his work in UNFPA.

“He will be greatly missed”, the NMA president said.

Prof. John Idoko, who took over from Osotimehin at NACA, said his death was shocking.  Idoko stated that the foundation for the recent successes recorded  by Nigeria in the control of HIV/AIDS was laid under him.

“We have lost one of the illustrious ambassadors of HIV and reproductive health and a great advocate for women in Nigeria and across the globe. He (Osotimehin) built the foundation for the progress we are seeing in the national response, from where I continued to bring the current national prevalence rate to under two percent and at the UNFPA, he has taken the organisation to higher heights,” the former DG said.

Current NACA Director-General, Dr. Sani Aliyu, eulogised Osotimehin in a personally signed statement, where he said the former minister’s selfless service made him a role model to health administrators in developing countries.

Aliyu said his agency was in mourning, adding that, “during his period as the director general of NACA, he successfully transformed the National Committee on AIDS Control to a federal agency. He will be fondly remembered for his outstanding contributions to the HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria.”

As Idoko, Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu described Osotimehin’s death as  great national loss.

The governor commiserated with the family of the late former minister and Nigerians and said the nation would miss his great influence and impact, especially in the health sector.

Family members said, yesterday, funeral rites of the late professor would be announced at a later date.

In its reaction to his death, Kaduna State government through its Ministry of Budget tweeted: “We commiserate with the family of former Nigerian Minister of Health & Head of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin, a friend of KDSG who died today.”

The condolence was retweeted by Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.

Osotimehin held various positions prior to the UNFPA appointment, including: African Spokesperson, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Minister of Health, Nigeria, December 2008 – March 2010.

Director-General, Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS, March 2007 – December 2008

Chairman, National Action Committee on AIDS, Nigeria, July 2002 – March 2007

Project Manager, HIV/AIDS Programme Development Project (World Bank-Assisted), 2002–2008 [9]

Chairman, Project Governing Board, Joint Regional HIV/AIDS Project in the Abidjan–Lagos Transport Corridor, 2003–2008

Vice-President, 14th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), 2005

Chairman, Committee of Presidential Advisers of AIDS Watch Africa

Member, Policy and Strategy Committee, The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Member, Global Steering Committee on Universal Access

Coordinator, the Social Sciences and Reproductive Health Research Network, Ibadan, Nigeria (an interdisciplinary network comprising sociologists, economists, doctors, lawyers, psychologists and human nutritionists dedicated to applying innovative research techniques to reproductive health and human development)

A recipient of  Officer of the Order of the Niger, in December 2005, he was married with five children.

Osotimehin, who was Provost, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, 1990–1994, gained recognition as the Director-General of the Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS, an agency that coordinated all HIV and AIDS work in a country with more than 150 million people.

A statement issued by his son, Dr. Babajide,  on behalf of the family, yesterday, said the senior Osotimehin died on Sunday, at the age of 68.

Osotimehin, who was from Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, was born Feb. 6, 1949.

He was appointed on Nov. 19, 2010, as the Executive Director of UNFPA for a four-year term and assumed the position on Jan. 1, 2011.

He was reappointed to this position on Aug. 21, 2014, to became the organisation’s fourth executive director.

He holds the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Osotimehin served previously as Nigeria’s minister of health between Dec. 17, 2008, and March 10, 2010.

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According to wikileaks, he attended Igbobi College between 1966 and 1971. After his medical studies at University of Ibadan, Osotimehin received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, in 1979.

Prior to his appointment at UNFPA, the deceased was the Director-General of the Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), an agency that coordinates all HIV and AIDS work in a country with more than 150 million people.

As chairman of the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA) he oversaw the development of systems that, today, manage more than US$1billion. During his tenure as Project Manager for the World-Bank assisted HIV/AIDS Programme Development Project from 2002–2008, he achieved great success.

Osotimehin’s interests include youth and gender, within the context of reproductive health and rights. Young people will be his special focus at UNFPA.

“We need to ensure that young people of both genders have equal participation, not only in reproductive rights and health but also within society and in the economy,” he said in a 2005 article in the New York Times.

He noted that nearly 58 percent of Nigerians with H.I.V. are female. Many girls in Nigeria are married off before they are physically or psychologically ready, when they are as young as 13 or 14. It is not acceptable for them to ask their partners to use a condom or to refrain from sex.

Later that year, he said that the government had ordered an increase to 250,000 of the number of HIV-positive people on Nigeria’s antiretroviral treatment program.

He believes humility is the key to engaging people and facilitating change, “humility to engage with the other person of the other community in such a way that they know that you respect them.’’

Cultural sensitivity and understanding are also vital.

He is survived by a wife, five children and three grandchildren.

Osotimehin held various positions prior to the UNFPA appointment, including: African Spokesperson, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Minister of Health, Nigeria, December 2008 – March 2010.

Director-General, Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS, March 2007 – December 2008

Chairman, National Action Committee on AIDS, Nigeria, July 2002 – March 2007

Project Manager, HIV/AIDS Programme Development Project (World Bank-Assisted), 2002–2008 [9]

Chairman, Project Governing Board, Joint Regional HIV/AIDS Project in the Abidjan–Lagos Transport Corridor, 2003–2008

Vice-President, 14th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), 2005

Chairman, Committee of Presidential Advisers of AIDS Watch Africa

Member, Policy and Strategy Committee, The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Member, Global Steering Committee on Universal Access

Coordinator, the Social Sciences and Reproductive Health Research Network, Ibadan, Nigeria (an interdisciplinary network comprising sociologists, economists, doctors, lawyers, psychologists and human nutritionists dedicated to applying innovative research techniques to reproductive health and human development)

Provost, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, 1990–1994. Professor of Clinical Pathology, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, 1980.

As Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Osotimehin united all 36 states to build a national health plan focused on primary health care.

In a September 2009 press conference, he said that Nigeria had yet to comply with the Abuja Declaration that 15 per cent of the budget of each African country should be devoted to health care. Nigeria as a whole was only spending between eight per cent and nine per cent, although some states were doing much better.

In October 2009, he pointed out that medical institutions were required by law to treat accident and gunshot victims. Refusal to give treatment could be punished by a jail term. In December 2009, he reaffirmed the government’s commitment to eliminate poliomyelitis and other childhood killer diseases.

Until his death, Osotimehin was a member or affiliate of the following: Member of the Royal College of Physicians (UK); Fellow in Endocrinology, Cornell University Graduate School of Medicine, New York, United States, 1979–1980; Distinguished Visitor, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, United States, 1996; Visiting Fellow, Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, 1996–1997; Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences since 2006; Population Association of America International Advisory Group, Population and Reproductive Health, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago; Regional Advisory Panel (Africa and the Middle East), Special Programme on Research and Research Training in the Human Reproduction Programme of the World Health Organisation.

Similarly, the deceased served in the following capacities: Chairman of the Committee to draft a Policy on Basic Health Sciences Research and Health Technology Delivery for the Nigerian Government; Nigerian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism The Nigerian Medical Association; The Nigerian Institute of Management.

Osotimehin bagged the Nigerian national honour, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), December 2005, during his lifetime.

Osotimehin has written or contributed to many papers and several books.

His life and times

Osotimehin was a global leader of public health, women’s empowerment and young people, particularly focused on promoting human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as population and development. After his appointment as UNFPA executive director in 2011, he spearheaded efforts by 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, 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. His leadership and advocacy with governments and other key stakeholders continued to focus on youth and voluntary family planning. He also, until his death, steered UNFPA’s humanitarian action and efforts around eliminating gender-based violence and other harmful practices.

Osotimehin’s professional background is in health and medicine.

He had extensive knowledge of the global and national frameworks and processes that are critical to UNFPA’s work. He previously served as Nigeria’s Minister of Health and as the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of HIV and AIDS, which coordinates all HIV/AIDS work in Nigeria.

The UNFPA Executive Director served in various advisory boards and councils.

Osotimehin chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Demographic Dividend and was also a Global Agenda Trustee for the Forum’s Global Challenge on Economic Growth and Social Inclusion, and co-chairs the Family Planning 2020 Reference Group.

A recipient of  Officer of the Order of the Niger, in December 2005, he was married with five children.

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