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Italian Priest & NGO Receive U.N. Population Award

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2014 (IPS) - A priest who spent decades treating patients in Africa and a non-governmental organisation (NGO) have received the 2014 U.N. Population Award for their contributions to the world’s population and health issues.

Catholic Father Aldo Marchesini of Italy and the John Hopkins Programme for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (JHPIEGO) received the prize last week at a ceremony organised by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).

“The Population Award is the expression of our joint committment to ensure a life of dignity for all and build a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” said U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson at the ceremony.

The U.N. Population Award, established in 1981, is given annually to individuals and institutions who contribute to address population issues including family planning, maternal health.

Father Marchesini, who is also a medical doctor, spent 43 years in Africa, mostly Mozambique, treating obstetric fistula in impoverished areas. He worked in conflict zones and was kidnapped and imprisoned several times. He got infected with HIV while treating the patients in poor medical conditions.

Father Marchesini worked as the only medical doctor to treat obstetric fistula in Mozambique in many years and trained all the physicians in this field in the country. Apart from treating the patients, he helped to raise fund to support their transportation and meals.

JHPIEGO, a non-profit health organisation affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, has been contributing towards preventing maternal deaths. Since its establishment in 1973, it has trained more than half a million health practictioners in family planning and maternal health in 160 countries.

Since UNFPA started operation in 1969, the rate of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related isues has been halved, it said.

The organisation trains health workers to introduce family planning services and prevent maternal deaths, educates about people family planning, and avocates for young people’s welfare.

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