IPPF honours the memory of Dr Halfdan T Mahler, former IPPF Director General

Dr Halfdan T Mahler, former IPPF Director General

IPPF is saddened to hear of the death of its former Director General, Dr Halfdan T Mahler.

Dr Mahler led IPPF from 1988 to 1995, having served as Director General of the World Health Organisation from 1973 to 1988.

A tireless campaigner for sexual and reproductive health and rights, Dr Mahler drove the creation and implementation of IPPF’s long term strategic plan, Vision 2000, which was adopted by the entire Federation in 1992, the 40th anniversary of IPPF.

It committed member associations to a series of far-reaching goals, including the empowerment of women, meeting unmet demand for contraception, the elimination of unsafe abortion and addressing the needs of the world’s young people, all under a practical framework of service delivery.

Dr Mahler told the IPPF 40th anniversary convention in New Delhi that "unsafe abortions have assumed the level of a calamity" and had to be addressed.

At the landmark International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, Dr Mahler gave IPPF’s wholehearted support to the adoption of a rights-based approach for sexual and reproductive health, placing the woman at the centre of its Plan of Action.

But he also sounded a warning about the need for national and international political will to find the resources to bring about what he called “a perfectly do-able miracle.”

 Dr Mahler told the ICPD: “I strongly urge governments, NGOs and the donor community to build on this new foundation of cooperation and goodwill by turning the words of the Cairo Document into prompt action.”

IPPF’s current Director General, Mr Tewodros Melesse, has paid a warm tribute to his predecessor.

He said: “Halfdan Mahler was a giant in the world of health provision and a ceaseless campaigner for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“His work as IPPF Director General for seven years paved the way for everything that the Federation has achieved since. As a visionary, he led IPPF’s fight to establish a rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health provision, recognising that such an approach had to take in every area, including access to safe abortion and AIDS and HIV.

He was tireless in urging governments, donors, and the international community to turn words into deeds. His determination to improve the lives of every single person should never be forgotten.”