Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has chosen former Nigerian health minister Babatunde Osotimehin to head the United Nations Population Fund, U.N. diplomats said Thursday.
Ban informed the fund’s executive board of his choice and called for reaction before making an official announcement, the diplomats and others familiar with the exchange said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made.
Osotimehin, a medical doctor who specialized in clinical pathology, served as Nigeria’s health minister from December 2008 to March 2010 and is currently provost of the University of Ibadan’s College of Medicine. He studied medicine in Ibadan and at the University of Birmingham in Britain.
He would succeed Thoraya Ahmed Obaid of Saudi Arabia, an expert on women’s issues who cracked a glass ceiling for women in the Arab world’s most conservative nations. She has served as the fund’s executive director since 2001.
The world’s population is edging toward 7 billion people, up from 2.5 billion in 1950, with almost all of the growth expected in cities of less developed countries.
The 1995 U.N. population conference in Cairo changed the focus of the fund, known as UNFPA, from numerical targets to promoting choices for individual women and men, and supporting economic development and education for girls.
UNFPA supports countries in using population data to develop policies and programs to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted and every birth is safe. It also works to promote reproductive health, to combat HIV in young people and to promote equality for girls and women and economic development.