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UN bids Osotimehin farewell, seeks new strategy on HIV, AIDS

The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Edward Kalllon, has called for a renewed commitment to champion advocacy for persons living with HIV and AIDS in the country.

Kalllon made the call at the Memorial Service organised for Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, organised by the UN system in Nigeria on Friday in Abuja.

Osotimehin, who until his death was the Executive Director of UN Population Fund (UNFPA), died on June 4 in Harrison, New York, at the age of 68.

“Let us also use this occasion to draw attention to Osotimehin’s service to his beloved country, Nigeria.

“As Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS and later as the Minister of Health, he made sure that Nigerians were constantly sensitised.

“He made sure that Nigerians were constantly sensitised about the level of the prevalence in the country and increased access to anti-retroviral drugs for persons living with HIV and AIDS.

“He also championed advocacy and action to prevent mother-to- child transmission among pregnant women.

“Let us renew this advocacy as HIV and AIDS is still a major challenge in Nigeria today,’’ the resident coordinator said.

Kalllon said that though the UN family would remember him for his legacies, “ we also celebrate the virtues, values, valour of our departed senior colleague.

“Let us celebrate Babatunde by committing ourselves to doing those things he dedicated his whole life for.’’

According to him, Babatunde never saw human suffering as a challenge rather he saw it as an opportunity to serve.

He said that the late icon was committed to ending maternal mortality in the country, the continent and the world.

“Babatunde saw himself in every young person across the world today, who is struggling to be heard.

“He said himself in every young person, who wants to be listened to, who wants to contribute to our common future but is not given the opportunity and is shut out.’’

The resident coordinator, however, announced that the conference room in the UN building would be named after him to immortalise his name.

In his exhortation, Rev. Benjamin Idume of the Anglican Church, urged people to emulate the good virtues of the late icon.

He said that Osotimehin’s legacy would live on in improving maternal and reproductive health rights in Nigeria.

Quoting from the Gospel of John, Chapter nine verse four, the cleric said “as long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.’’

According to him, Babatunde has put his name in the book of history through his work to humanity.

“He was completely devoted to the course of women and girls, especially those who are marginalised.’’

Idume, however, urged Nigerians to contribute positively in the task of building of the country.

“What will you be remembered for? Are you contributing to the peace of this country or you are the one causing trouble in the country?

“Wherever God has called us, is to live a legacy, so try your best to live a legacy in your organisation, establishment and country,’’ he said.

The service was attended by some ministers, governors, government officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

The UN Coordinator, Kalllon, Prof. Al-Hassan Conteh, Ambassador of Liberia to Nigeria and Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, laid wreaths in honour of the late icon.

The high point of the event was laying of wreaths, which was done on behalf of the UN system in Nigeria, Diplomatic Corps and the Federal Government of Nigeria respectively.

Other dignitaries who paid tribute to Osotimehin were Ministers of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi, Ministers of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed and Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, among others.

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