Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, who as head of the United Nations Population Fund promoted public health, especially sexual and reproductive health for women and girls, died on Sunday night at his home in West Harrison, N.Y. He was 68.
The population agency confirmed his death, saying it was sudden, but did not give a cause.
Dr. Osotimehin, a Nigerian, had been the executive director of the agency, the world’s leading provider of family planning services, including contraception, since 2011. He led efforts to advance a 1994 action plan adopted by 179 countries that recognized for the first time that women have the right to control their reproductive and sexual health and to choose whether to become pregnant.
He also advocated family planning services, championed methods to prevent maternal deaths in childbirth and sought to eliminate genital cutting of women and girls.
In April, the Trump administration terminated United States funding, a move that stunned many advocates for women’s and children’s health, particularly in the developing world.
Dr. Osotimehin was born in Nigeria and trained to be a doctor there at the University of Ibadan. He received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Birmingham in England in 1979.
He was Nigeria’s minister of health and director general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS before becoming an undersecretary general with the United Nations. He chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Demographic Dividend, which offers policy advice to lawmakers so they can benefit from the economic growth that comes with a decline in a country’s birth and death rates.
He was also co-chairman of the Family Planning 2020 Reference Group, an international organization that looks to provide family planning services for 120 million more women and girls by the year 2020.
He is survived by his wife, Olufunke Osotimehin, five children and several grandchildren.
Dr. Osotimehin expressed his strong view that population stabilization was tightly linked to female empowerment.
“There are countries where the population is growing faster than the economy,” he told The New York Times in 2012. “We try to work with these countries to make sure girls have access to education to empower women to participate in politics and the economy.”
In nations where low rates of education consistently correlated with high fertility rates, he promoted a high-school level education for girls, who could then find jobs rather than be immediately married off by their families.
“If you educate girls to the secondary level, then exposure to pregnancy doesn’t happen until they are mature and can make choices,” Dr. Osotimehin said.