Babatunde Osotimehin was a Nigerian public servant who was appointed on 19 November 2010 as the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for a four-year term. He assumed the position on 1 January 2011 and became the organisation’s fourth Executive Director, holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. He was reappointed to the position on 21 August 2014. Previously, he was Nigeria’s Minister of Health. He left this office in March 2010 when Acting President Goodluck Jonathan dissolved his cabinet.
Babatunde Osotimehin was born in February 1949 in Ogun State. He attended Igbobi College between 1966 and 1971. After his medical studies at University of Ibadan, he received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, in 1979. Prior to his appointment at the United Nations Population Fund, Dr. Osotimenhin served as the Minister of Health of Nigeria. Before that, Dr. Osotimehin was the Director-General of the Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS, 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.
Dr. Ostotimehin’s interests included youth and gender, within the context of reproductive health and rights. Young people remained 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.” 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 believed 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 was married and had five children and three grandchildren.
His positions prior to the UNFPA appointment include:
- 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
- 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 to Fight 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.
Babatunde Osotimehin was appointed Minister of Health on 17 December 2008. During his tenure, he united all 36 states to build a national health plan focused on primary health care. In a September 2009 press conference, Dr. Osotimehin said that Nigeria had yet to comply with the Abuja Declaration that 15% of the budget of each African country should be devoted to health care. Nigeria as a whole was only spending between 8% and 9%, 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.
Babatunde Osotimehin is 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 Organization
- 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
He was awarded the Nigerian national honour, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), December 2005
Babatunde Osotimehin wrote or contributed to many papers and several books. A selection follows:
- N. C. den Boer, ed. (1989). “Clinical Biochemistry Services in Tropical Africa”. Clinical chemistry: an overview. Springer. ISBN 0-306-43093-2.
- Olayiwola A. Erinosho; Babatunde Osotimehin; Janice E. Olawoye (1996). Women’s empowerment and reproductive health. Bookcraft Ltd., for Social Sciences and Reproductive Health Research Network. ISBN 978-2030-14-7.
- Babatunde Osotimehin (1999). Male responsibility in reproductive health: the construction of manhood in Nigeria : phase I. The Social Science and Reproductive Health Research Network. ISBN 978-028-569-5.
- David Celentano, Chris Beyrer (2008). “12: Nigeria and West Africa”. Public Health Aspects of HIV/AIDS in Low and Middle Income Countries: Epidemiology, Prevention and Care. Springer. ISBN 0-387-72710-8.
- Babatunde Osotimehin (2008). The control of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria: the journey so far. WHARC.