COVID-19: Partners commend Nigerian health Journalists for positive reportage

Gloria Essien, Abuja



The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, has commended Nigerian health journalists for proving to be highly professional by rising to the test of the COVID-19 hesitancy by educating, mobilizing, and creating awareness amongst the populace.

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He was speaking at the 2-Day Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), holding in Nasarawa state.

Represented by the Head of Communications Unit, Ms Charity Warigon, he said that the theme, “Improving confidence in COVID-19 Vaccine” was apt and timely as it not only speaks to the present day reality but also to the future of making Nigerians healthier.

He said that journalists covering the health beat haves proved their capability and have done invaluable work over the years thereby making the difference in helping people make informed decisions and positive choices that improve their health.

Journalists can only improve on what we have achieved so far and even do better, as there is so much to attain in driving confidence in the vaccination effort by building trust and continuously being a trusted and reliable source. The COVID-19 pandemic, unlike any pandemic in history, has affected everyone and every country in a manner unexpected, although there had been calls and available support to nations to build their health systems and security in preparation for future outbreaks. In the earlier phases of the pandemic, there was the absence of sufficient knowledge to inform the development of vaccines as the sciences were limited, which were exploited by mischief makers, through what we call, infodemics”. He said.

The Country Representative also pointed out that journalists have built and maintained the trust of the people by providing information that shapes the behaviour and lives of generations of peoples the world over.

The media and journalists are the bridge between scientists and the public. It behoves every member of the Fourth Realm of the Estate to, as social responsibility, ensure the provision of accurate, timely, credible, understandable, relevant, and actionable information through various communication channels. Our messaging must continue to remind the public that, for the foreseeable future, we must continue to wear masks, physically distance ourselves, and avoid the crowd. Being vaccinated doesn’t mean that we can throw caution to the wind and put ourselves and others at risk: relaxing public health and social measures interventions should be done cautiously and with careful attention paid to those who remain unvaccinated”. He advised.

He promised that on its part, the WHO remains resolute in sustaining the mutually beneficial partnership with AHNEJ, towards promoting health and wellbeing, keeping the world safe and serving the vulnerable, to achieve Universal Health Coverage and ensure that no one is left behind.

In his goodwill message, the Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Chapter, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche lamented that the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) who are supposed to drive the conference are not actively involved but left it for international organisations.

He affirmed that there are vaccine resistance in Nigeria, which was due to religious, ethnic and political factors.

He charged journalists to work the talk, by being vaccine ambassadors.

We must be seen to believe what we preach, this will encourage people to get vaccinated”. Ogbeche said.

He advised journalists to always think out of the box by being exceptional in their different fields.

The Director General of the West African Health Organisation, Dr. Anselm Okolo, in his goodwill message urged health Correspondents not relent in the good work of enlightening the people by sharing accurate information on COVID-19.

He said that journalists were equal partners in keeping the people healthy.

Similarly, the ANHEJ Board Chairman, Mr Godwin Odemijie, charged the journalists to focus on issues of mental health, saying that it was affecting many people in Nigeria now.

He also called on journalists to do more investigative and Human angle stories.

In his presentation, Mr. Ewuola Bayo, of Pathfinder International, said that organization would continue to partner with the media to reach improve the health of the people.

He called on the media to continue to report issues affecting people health wise.

On his part, the President of ANHEJ, Mr Hassan Zaggi, called on the federal government to always make available the necessary information that journalists need for their reportage.

He also said that health journalists in Abuja are gathered to work out strategies on how we can convince Nigerians to take the COVID-19 jab.

The theme of the the 2-Day Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), is ” Improving confidence in COVID-19 Vaccine”.

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