One of the journalists who writes for the Ghana Business News, Ms Eunice Menka, is among nine journalists from Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone who received a media excellence award at a workshop in Accra for their reportage on the “Catalyzing Leadership to improve Women, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Wellbeing in West Africa” (WNCAW) Project
The three-year project, which has ended, was implemented by the Consortium for Mothers, Children, Adolescents and Health Policy and Systems Strengthening (COMCAHPSS) in collaboration with the West African Health Organization (WAHO).
The workshop also served as a dissemination forum on the WNCAW project. It was organized by WAHO as part of the technical meetings preceding the ECOWAS Summit of Health Ministers scheduled for May 13, 2022 by the WAHO in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Ghana, the Ghana Health Service, Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR) and Women, Media and Change (WOMEC).
Present at the workshop were representatives from the Ministries of Health of all the 15 countries of the ECOWAS and members of country level communities of practice where the project took place, media practitioners and civil society organizations from six countries in the sub-region (Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Niger).
The project piloted interventions for capacity strengthening and evidence generation to catalyze leadership towards informing approaches for strengthening health systems and other interventions to improve WNCAW in the sub-region over the preceding three years.
The approaches and interventions have included the formation and capacity strengthening of multi-professional communities of practice involving health system policy makers, health providers, researchers, media practitioners, and civil society organizations to work together on health systems strengthening and WNCAW.
Others were the training of media practitioners in reporting on health in general and WNCAW in particular and engaging communities to understand their perspectives using score cards assessment processes, and linking communities and policy makers.
Ms Menka was the first-runner up for her story, titled: challenges with NHIS hindering quality malaria care, other basic health services.
The two other journalists from Ghana who also received awards were Bertha Badu-Agyei of the Ghana News Agency, who was adjudged the overall winner for Ghana and Benedicta Folley Gyimah of the Ghanaian Times, who was the second runner-up.
The six other journalists from Sierra Leone and Senegal were made up of the overall winner, a first and second runners-up in each of the two countries who also received the awards. The journalists received a plaque and cash prizes at the closing ceremony of the workshop.
COMCAHPSS was the lead organisation in charge of the WNCAW project but had other organisations involved in running the project such as Women, Media and Change (WOMEC) and the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR), who undertook a series of media engagement activities culminating in the establishment of the media award to honour journalists who excelled in advocacy on the WNCAW project and also disseminated the findings from the community assessment programme.
Prof Richard Adanu, Rector of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, who presided over the closing ceremony, said issues about women and children have been much neglected and it is therefore gratifying that WAHO is visiting the issues around these vulnerable groups.
Dr. Charity Binka, Executive Director of WOMEC, said there were about 33 entries for the media award.
Ms Vicky Okine, Executive Director of ARHR, touched on the need to build the capacity of journalists to report effectively on health and WNCAW issues.
Dr. Ayo Palmer, Member of the COMCAHPSS/WNCAW Advisory Committee, urged civil society groups to speak up and demand accountability from policy makers to ensure that issues surrounding the wellbeing of women and children are given the needed attention.
At the end of the workshop, participants from the ECOWAS countries issued a communique and noted several shared realities in relation to strengthening health policy and systems to support women, new born, children and adolescents health and wellbeing improvements.
They added that in all countries resources or supply is inadequate in relation to demand or the need of the population.
“These include human, financial, infrastructure, equipment, tools and supplies. There are challenges with adequate domestic resource mobilization. Many good initiatives cannot continue because of lack of funding.”
“It is important to advocate not only for research but for research that is oriented to the solution of problems occurring within the health system, with providers and users of the health system and in response to their needs.”
According to the communique, all the issues the country teams are dealing with such as the ‘no bed’ syndrome, very high adolescent pregnancy rates in some context and poor responsiveness to the health needs of clients accessing health care are problems rather than just a single issue such as human resource or beds in health facilities.
It noted that the state and central governments cannot do everything in all countries in the world.
“We need to involve local government, civil society organizations, communities and media. Also need to involve CSO /NGO and the media to ask for accountability from the authorities in resource allocation and prioritizations”
“We need to address professional health system culture that drive poor responsiveness during the training of health workers. We also need to recognize that the rights of providers to respectful treatment also matters. We need to keep and enforce patient charters, but also go beyond patient charters and also look at charters that protect the rights of staff.”
Ms Menka is one of the journalists, one of the 11 journalists selected from the 11 malaria endemic countries of the world to hold the position of the first RBM Media Fellows for 2019, in recognition of their work in malaria control. The 11 were selected from a list of 140 applicants.
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