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Egyptian doctor, Nicaraguan NGO receive 2009 UN Population Award

January 6, 2009 - NEW YORK

An Egyptian doctor, Mahmoud Fathalla, and a Nicaraguan non-governmental organization, Movimiento Comunal Nicaragüense (MCN), have won this year's United Nations Population Award. They will be presented with a diploma and gold medal at the United Nations. Deeply-rooted cultural attitudes posed monumental challenges to the missions of both laureates.

An Egyptian doctor, Mahmoud Fathalla, and a Nicaraguan non-governmental organization, Movimiento Comunal Nicaragüense (MCN), have won this year's United Nations Population Award. They will be presented with a diploma and gold medal at the United Nations. Deeply-rooted cultural attitudes posed monumental challenges to the missions of both laureates. In 1974, Dr. Fathalla founded one of the first family planning organizations in the Arab world, the Egyptian Fertility Care Society. He is a professor of obstetrics/gynaecology at Assiut University in Egypt, a country growing at a rate of 1.5 million people a year. The government initated a birth control program in the 1950s because of concerns about the negative impact of high population growth rates on the country's development efforts. The negative impact is compounded by the way the population is distributed -- some 99 per cent of Egypt's people live on 5 per cent of its land area. The government program is widely seen as ineffective because of the high value Egyptians place on large families. Created in 1978, MCN works to improve living conditions in Nicaragua through social and community development, gender equality and environmental protection, according to the Award Committee news release. The organization works in 120 municipalities and 2,000 local communities, with an ability to mobilize around 20,000 persons, such as community leaders, educators and health promoters, including midwives. Its recent work has centered on young people, with the aim of improving gender relations, eliminating violence, preventing sexually transmitted infections and reducing teen pregnancies. Entrenched cultural attitudes create a formidable challenge for the MCN. The Award Committee, chaired by Malaysia's Ambassador to the United Nations, Hamidon Ali, chose the laureates from 18 international nominees. Apr/09

UNFPA news release:

Rand Organization report on Egypt:

Date written/update: 2009-01-06