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COVID-19: ICIR reporter wins award as experts harp on sustained reporting

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THE ICIR’s Senior Investigative Reporter Marcus Fatunmole has won the ANHEJ President’s Award 2021.

He was declared winner of the Online Media Category award at the two-day Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) held at Auta Balefi, near Keffi, Nasarawa State, on Thursday.

The award seeks to honour reporters who conduct outstanding investigations in the nation’s health sector.

The 2021 edition focused on COVID-19, making The ICIR’s story which revealed how residents of Abuja ignored COVID-19 threats to besiege malls during the last Yuletide against government directives to beat others in the keenly-contested award. 

The conference theme was “Improving Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccine in Nigeria Beyond 2021: The Role of the Media.”

It sought to retool the reporting of COVID-19 vaccination by marshalling strategies to defeat myths, conspiracy theories around the pandemic and reduce vaccine apathy to its barest minimum.

In his remarks, the Coordinator, Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) Aminu Magashi Garba urged the government to promote social protection programmes, job creation and building social infrastructures as the nation joins the rest of the world to come out of the crises unleashed by the pandemic.

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Garba, represented by the AHBN’s Senior Programme and Partnership Officer Obinna Onuoha challenged the reporters to be true watchdogs of government, especially in making the government accountable to the public in its management of resources for COVID-19 containment and citizens’ support.

“With all the efforts underway towards recovery from COVID-19, the media stands front, line and centre in ensuring that all Nigerians are well-informed with the facts: what funding has been received and from whom, what plans from the government are in place to utilise these funds to provide quality health, what are the checks and balances to ensure these dedicated funds offer value for money, what are the steps taken to ensure all concerned parties are held accountable in the disbursement and utilisation of these funds, what are the feedback mechanisms from the beneficiaries of these health interventions, and how are the challenges and lessons carried forth for future reference, that we may learn from the past.”

WHO Nigeria Communication Officer Charity Warigon commended Nigerian health journalists for doing “invaluable work” in containing the pandemic.

While urging the media to do more, Warigon said having worked in several African countries, the Nigerian journalists are “highly professional” and had been the best with whom she had worked.

She appealed to the practitioners to continue to enlighten the public on the need to receive vaccination against the virus, wear their masks and comply with other measures outlined by health authorities to contain the disease.

ANHEJ President Hassan Zaggi commended the government’s efforts to roll out a mass vaccination campaign and decentralise vaccination sites, including private health facilities and places of worship, to ensure more Nigerians have access to the vaccines.

But he frowned at the hesitancy by Nigerians to receive the vaccines.

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Zaggi called on media practitioners to disabuse the minds of the citizens against misinformation and disinformation against COVID-19 vaccination.

“We are concerned that if urgent actions are not taken, the Federal Government’s target to vaccinate 55 million residents of Nigeria by the end of January 2022, which is 50 per cent of the target population, may not be visible,” he said.

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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