UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has presented the world body population award to an Egyptian doctor and a Nicaraguan non-governmental organisation, in recognition of their contributions to public health and efforts to reduce maternal deaths.
Mahmoud Fathalla and Movimiento Comunal Nicaragüense (MCN) were chosen from 18 nominees by an Award Committee, headed by Ambassador Hamdon Ali of Malaysia, to receive the honour, which consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a monetary prize.
"Fathalla has made a major impact in the field of family planning, reproductive rights and ending maternal deaths," Ban told the awards ceremony in New York.
The Secretary-General noted that, among his achievements, he helped to found the ‘Safe Motherhood Initiative,’ which is saving women from dying in pregnancy and childbirth, and in 1974, established the Egyptian Fertility Care Society, one of the first family planning organisations in the Arab world.
Highlighting his work with various UN agencies, Ban paid special tribute to "his recognition of the important role of women in contraceptive research."
He stressed that Fathalla "richly deserves the UN Population Award" for demonstrating "how science, academics and advocacy can come together to help the women of the world."
Ban also paid tribute to MCN, which was created in 1978 to boost living conditions in Nicaragua through social and community development, gender equality and environmental protection.
He noted that the NGO has trained people in more than 2,000 local communities, "and has mobilised an impressive 20,000 people, including leaders, educators and midwives, to improve public health."
The group’s efforts have led to advances in literacy, polio eradication and reduction of maternal and child mortality rates, said Ban. "It has also improved conditions for Nicaraguans by focusing on youth, gender relations, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancies."
Drawing inspiration from the work of the award winners, Ban called for "a world where women do not die needlessly in childbirth; where girls get the education they deserve; where young people are protected from HIV; and where couples can decide how many children to have."