Dr Nafis Sadik, a Pakistani woman who headed major UN agency, dies in New York

Nafis Sadik

NEW YORK, Aug 15 (APP): Dr Nafis Sadik, a Pakistani medical expert who became the first woman to head the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a major UN agency, passed away in her sleep Sunday in New York where she had settled after her retirement. She was 92.

She leaves behind three children – a son and two daughters. Her husband Azhar Sadik, a businessman, died in 2011.

According to the people close to her family, arrangements for Dr Sadik’s funeral were being made.

She was the daughter of Mohammad Shoaib, a former Pakistani finance minister and vice president of the World Bank, who died in Washington in 1976. Shoaib served in the cabinet of President Ayub Khan.

Dr Sadik had a distinguished career. She served as Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, after her stint as Executive Director of UNFPA, with the rank of Under-Secretary-General, from 1987 through 2000.

A graduate of Dow Medical College, Karachi, she served her internship in gynecology and obstetrics at City Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She completed further studies at The Johns Hopkins University and held the post of research fellow in physiology at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario (Canada).

Dr Sadik began her professional life as a physician, practicing obstetrics and gynecology in rural communities in Pakistan. She was appointed director-general of the Central Family Planning Council, having occupied the post of deputy from 1968.

In 1971, she joined the United Nations and became a technical adviser to UNFPA and Chief of its Programme Division in 1973. From 1982 to 1987 she served as assistant executive director.

Dr Sadik consistently called attention to the importance of addressing the needs of women, and of involving women directly in making and carrying out development policy. This is particularly important for population policies and programmes.

In June 1990, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed Dr Sadik Secretary-General of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), 1994. On the Conference, Dr Sadik has said:

“When the essential needs of the individual are addressed, those of larger groups -the family, the community, the nation and indeed the planet are more likely to be kept in the right perspective. One of the challenges to the Conference is to find the balance between individual rights and responsibilities on the one hand, and the rights and obligations of the wider society on the other.”

Dr Sadik’s contribution to improving the health of women and children of the global community brought her many international awards and honours.

She was a member of the Board of Governors of the Foundation for Human Development, and a member of the South Asian Commission on the Asian Challenge.

Dr Sadik was the President of the Society for International Development (SID) for the period 1994-1997.

She wrote numerous articles for leading publications in the family planning, health, population and development fields, and edited several books, among them: Population: The UNFPA Experience (New York University Press, 1984), Population Policies and Programmes: Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Experience, (New York University Press, 1991), and Making a Difference: Twenty-five Years of UNFPA Experience, (Banson, London, United Kingdom, 1994).