Local and international organisations and public officials have paid tributes to Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Funds, UNFPA, who passed away on Monday in his home in New York.
Nigeria’s Acting President Yemi Osinbajo expressed shock and sadness at the death of the professor at age 68.
“On behalf of the people and Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof Osinbajo extends heartfelt condolences to his wife, children and entire family over the passage of their beloved father, grandfather and also an illustrious Nigerian,” Mr. Osinbajo’s spokesperson said.
The UNFPA in a press release announcing the death said it was a devastating loss for the agency and for people all over the world, especially women, girls and youth he dedicated his life to serving, starting from when he became a doctor in Nigeria.
“UNFPA expresses its deep sympathy to his family and prays that they have the fortitude to bear this great loss”.
The global agency said it would remain dedicated to continuing Mr. Osotimehin’s grand vision for women and young people and continue to stand up for the human rights and dignity of everyone, particularly the most vulnerable adolescent girls.
“Dr. Osotimehin was bold and never afraid of a challenge and his strong leadership helped keep the heath and rights of the world’s women and girls high on the global agenda. He understood that the world’s 1.8 billion young people are truly its greatest hope for the future,” it stated
According to UNFPA, Mr. Osotimehin vigorously championed three major transformative goals of zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet demand for family planning and the elimination of harmful practices against women and girls.
It urged all to honour his legacy by rallying around those global goals.
The United Nations’ Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on his official twitter account said: “I mourn the death of the UNFPA chief, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Our world lost a great champion of well-being for all, especially women and girls”.
In a later statement, Mr. Guterres said, “I offer sincere condolences to his family, to the staff of UNFPA, to the Government and people of Nigeria, and to all those around the world touched by this loss.”
In a similar vein, Isaac Adewole, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, said he received with shock the news of the sudden death of the man who preceded him in office as Minster of Health.
He said Mr. Osotimehin, whom he called the ‘Big Boss’, would be missed for his dedication, humility, mentorship and patriotism.
In a press statement by the Ministry of Health, Mr. Adewole described the former Provost of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan and former Director-General of the National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA), as an accomplished physician.
He said he will be remembered for his role and global contributions to increased access to family planning as well as sexual and adolescent health, especially in low and middle-income countries.
“While in office as the Honorable Minister, Prof. Osotimehin was at the forefront of the advocacy for improved reproductive health care in the country”, he added.
Mr. Adewole, on behalf of the management and staff of the Federal Ministry of Health, condoled with the family, friends, associates and colleagues of the late professor at the United Nations.
In another press statement, NACA, which the deceased headed as its first Director-General until 2009, said it was “saddened by the death of a distinguished scholar, researcher.”
In the statement signed by Sani Aliyu, the current Director-General, the agency said the death was a huge loss to the country, saying the management and staff of NACA and the entire HIV/AIDS advocates join the family in mourning a departed icon in the country.
Mr. Aliyu said as DG, Mr. Osotimehin transformed NACA from a committee to a federal government agency, and will be fondly remembered for his outstanding contributions to the HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria.
The Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-rufai, wrote: “On behalf of the Kaduna State Government, I wish to commiserate with the family of the former Nigerian head of NACA, Minister of Health and Head of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin, a friend of Kaduna State Government who died today. May his soul rest in Peace. Amen”
In November 2010, Mr. Osotimehin was appointed the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and became the organization’s fourth Executive Director. He also served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and a former Provost, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan from 1990 – 1994.