Give malaria, due coverage - Chakachaka

Deogratius Kiduduye | 23 Jul 2006

Despite challenges facing the media in the continent, African journalists must remain focused so as to improve reporting on HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

UNICEF Malaria Ambassador and renowned South African musician and community activist Yvonne Chakachaka, told journalists and editors from around the continent meeting here mid-week that African journalists are bound by an obligation of highlighting such health issues to ensure governments and civil society organizations use limited resources available to effectively address the three diseases.

''You face a difficult choice every day in reaching decisions on whose story to tell, how to tell that story and when, I believe this conference will guide you in seeking out the stories of the many voices in our marginalized community.''she said.

Nearly 50 journalists and editors from around the continent met here to share best practices of Maisha Yetu; a project by the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF)- and journalists who are working in the field to improve health reporting.

Chakachaka, who dominated the East African musical scene and airwaves in the 1980s and early 90s, appealed to the African media to give malaria the attention it deserves in the same way that it focuses on HIV and AIDS and TB.

''Although Africa remains the epicentre of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, malaria is also a violent killer that claims 3,000 lives of children every day in Africa and we need to mobilize to fight it as well.''she said.

She said as a mother and community activist, she is saddened that so many African children continue to die from preventable diseases, challenging every member of the media in the continent to do much more to bring down the suffering caused by the three diseases.

Speaking earlier, IWMF Executive Director, Jane Ransom, honoured delegates and colleagues from the African media who have devoted their time to work tirelessly to make sustain the project.

She said as the African continent continues to bear the largest human burden of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, in the absence of a cure for AIDS, accurate and relevant messages on prevention, care and support are necessary to reduce stigma and bring about behaviour change.

''Information about TB treatment strategies and malaria drugs policies can save lives if people know about them,'' she said, adding that ''in this regard, the African media has an important role to play especially in the prevention, care and better understanding of these public health issues.''

Maisha Yetu was created by the IMWF four years ago through a grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to enhance the quality and consistency of reporting on HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria, by giving the African media means to become more responsive to their communities and to magnify their efforts in health reporting.