25 May 2012

Executive Director: Mission to Manila and Beyond


The Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin answers tough questions -- ranging from controversial to personal -- from The Bottomline host Boy Abunda.

Photo: UNFPA Philippines CO

MANILA -- In a whirlwind two-day mission to the Philippines, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin met with President Benigno Aquino, former President Fidel Ramos (regarded as the grandfather of the ICPD in the Philippines), journalists, ambassadors from UNFPA donor countries, youth and civil society leaders, government officials, legislators and other stakeholders. He aimed to drum up support for the country’s efforts to improve maternal health and services, achieve greater equity, ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, and help young people reach their full potential.

The Executive Director shakes hands with Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III as they meet at Malacanan Palace.
Photo: UNFPA Philippines CO

The visit also comes at a time when the UNFPA Philippines Country Office is celebrating 40 years of UNFPA programming in the country. The First Country Programme started in 1972 and UNFPA is now in its seventh cycle of assistance to the Philippine government.

The Executive Director gives his opening statement at the start of the press conference.
Photo: UNFPA Philippines CO

“UNFPA is an organization unique in itself,” Dr. Osotimehin said during a press conference. "It was started by a Filipino, a dedicated gentleman who believed in the rights of women."

He also spoke about what the Philippines needs to do to accelerate progress on MDG 5 and how investments in family planning can lead to a six-fold savings in public health expenditure.

“Today, we have recommitted ourselves to providing assistance and working with governments around the world to ensure that the lives of women and young people are secured not only in terms of services and commodities for family planning but also in terms of protecting their rights and ensuring that we create programmes that would reach people in the most equitable fashion,” the Executive Director said to journalists.

The Executive Director cuddles a baby as he visits the women-friendly space created in Calaanan for displaced families.
Photo: UNFPA Philippines CO

In their meeting, President Aquino shared with the Executive Director his plans for the Philippines’ development, including significant increases in health budgets. Dr. Osotimehin said he was pleased to learn that a good number of Filipino women are now able to deliver in facilities, that emergency obstetric care is improving and more funds are being allocated for family planning commodities.

The Executive Director also visited Northern Mindanao, where survivors of severe flooding last winter remain in tent villages. UNFPA is working with the Catholic Church in Cagayan de Oro in providing for the basic needs of women of reproductive age who were affected by the massive flooding brought by tropical storm Washi last December. Specifically, the activities include the distribution of hygiene kits and the conduct of medical missions for pregnant and lactating women.

The Executive Director hands out a hygiene kit to a pregnant woman during the reproductive health medical mission.
Photo: UNFPA Philippines CO

The Executive Director pledged to continue technical assistance in terms of data analysis for policy formulation that would ensure greater coverage for Filipinos to access life-saving services and information.
Dr. Osotimehin also met with youth leaders. In their discussions, he encouraged a stronger focus on prevention of teenage pregnancies through adolescent-friendly reproductive health services and sexuality education.