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Population Dynamics Central to Sustainable Development, Says U.N. Chief

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 30 2013 (IPS) - Jotham Musinguzi, a doctor from Uganda and the International Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research (IICPSR), a research centre based in Egypt, were the recipients of the 2013 United Nations Population Award.

The awards presented Friday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) consist of a gold medal, a diploma and a monetary prize. During the award ceremony Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Population dynamics are central to sustainable development.”

With the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaching fast, Ban said that it is a “critical moment” as efforts are underway to shape a vision for the post-2015 development agenda.

Musinguzi won the award in the individual category for advancing better reproductive and maternal health in Africa.

Musinguzi played an important role in preparing the Maputo Plan of Action to address sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Maputo Plan of Action was later adopted by the African Union in 2006.

Asked about the major challenges Africa faces on maternal healthcare, Musinguzi told IPS, “Poverty is a big issue and needs to be tackled and sorted out.”  But on a broader scale, it is a combination of factors, such as, illiteracy, lack of doctors as well as lack of health services that further add to the problem of maternal healthcare in Africa, Musinguzi told IPS.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day.

IICPSR associated with the Al-Azhar University in Egypt emerged as the winner in the institutional category.  The research center has an integrated approach to population related issues and works towards educating people about Islam as well as dispelling myths about Islam.

But the bigger challenge is to make the people, who now run the government, understand about the health problems that already exist, said Gamal Serour, who accepted the award on behalf of IICPSR.

“Those who were in opposition came to office and they were not aware of maternal mortality; they were not aware of the importance of contraception,” Serour told IPS.

In the Middle East, where liberals and Islamists often disagree on several issues, it is important to reach out to all the factions and not only those who are in power, Serour said.

IICPSR is also raising awareness about female genital mutilation (FGM). About 140 million girls and women all over the world are currently living with the consequences of FGM, according to WHO.

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