Health reporting in Nigeria has historically focused more on issues in government policies and responses, and the consequences of disease outbreaks in communities across the country.
Little coverage has been dedicated to efforts being carried out to solve health-related challenges, particularly in rural communities. For instance, organizations providing free medical care, water and hygiene services.
The many negative stories have deflated the positive ones.
The series was conceived out of a determination that the narrative around health reporting needed to improve — by focusing on how challenges were being addressed, according to Managing Director Vivianne Ihekweazu. “We wanted to change our country through reports of communities, individuals and organizations that are actually bringing positive change, and use them as a catalyst to bring wider positive change,” said Ihekweazu, adding that the series was also intended to hold decision-makers and public officials in Nigeria accountable.
The series highlights what works, through reporting that identifies a problem and investigates why an intervention or solution has been able to bring about change. Writers have researched and reported solutions stories around maternal, newborn and child health, routine immunization, nutrition, family planning and reproductive health, among others.
“The Nigeria Health Watch Torchlight Series has been at the forefront of using this approach to report on responses to health problems in Nigeria,” Ihekweazu said. “It presents an opportunity for the journalists to explore positive, solutions-oriented content that has been proven to be more effective in inspiring change.”
One story, for instance, looked at how an initiative, called “Saving Mothers, Giving Life,” helps reduce maternal and perinatal mortality in Kaduna, a city in northern Nigeria, through improved access to, and better quality of, maternal and newborn health care, and institutional delivery services.
Another piece in the series discussed how a project called “Healthy Mother, Healthy Child” encourages pregnant women to attend antenatal care during the course of their pregnancies. The initiative covers the transportation and registration costs for women accessing these services at their local health centers. The women are also provided “mama kits” of basic supplies. The report highlighted how pregnant women often do not receive antenatal care because of poverty and lack of awareness.
This story reported how the relief organization Doctors Without Borders provides humanitarian assistance and medical aid to individuals and communities displaced by conflicts in northeast Nigeria.
Nigeria Health Watch also runs a Thought Leadership Series that encourages journalists to provide in-depth analysis and reporting on health-related issues, for instance offering ideas on how best to prevent the outbreak of epidemics.
This article under the series examined how better access to clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria is critical for preventing outbreaks of cholera. Another piece identified how the health care sector continues to deteriorate because of medical doctors going on strike or relocating due to poor working conditions.
Building solutions journalism partnerships
In 2020, the Solutions Journalism Network announced that it would partner with Nigeria Health Watch and Science Africa to implement its Solutions Journalism Africa Initiative, to work with journalists across Nigeria and Kenya to produce reporting that helps paint a fuller, more nuanced picture about what’s working and not working across Africa.
In May, Nigeria Health Watch also began to collaborate with Media Trust Limited, publishers of Daily Trust, to produce solutions reporting on health. Three journalists from Media Trust will receive intensive training and mentorship, and produce stories of positive impact in the health sector.
“They’ll be the first cohort of the program,” said Ihekweazu. “There are a lot of positive stories in Nigeria which are deflected by negative stories which we all face on a daily basis and are aware of.”