Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Mozambique: Bring Rural Health Issues to National Attention

Savana reporter Salane Muchanga (left), a trainee of Knight Fellow Sayagues, interviews a Maputo resident on health concerns.

From her base at the weekly newspaper Savana in Maputo, Mozambique, Knight Health Journalism Fellow Mercedes Sayagues produced health coverage that transformed reporting at news organizations across the country.

She coached Savana journalists in the production of more than 200 stories, and the newspaper consistently produced high-quality coverage of issues ranging from alcohol abuse to malnutrition to reproductive health. The coverage increased the amount of attention other media outlets—such as the government-owned daily Noticias—now give to health issues.

Sayagues trained dozens of print and radio journalists—from the capital city Maputo to the most remote rural district, Mueda. The resulting stories brought to light the country’s harsh conditions and painfully poor health facilities. She also produced training resources such as a video on covering obstetric fistula, a disease resulting from poor reproductive health care that affects thousands of women across Africa.

Our Stories


  • Jan 192011

    Maputo's New Unhealthy Fad

    They look lovely, the heaps of sand in ochre, sienna, orange and yellow hues, glistening under the sun or the dappled shade in the markets and street corners of Maputo. Five meticais (US$0,10) will buy you a funil, a cone made of newsprint filled with silky sand, the colour – and taste - of your choice.

    Yes, taste. For this sand is sold to be eaten. Eating soil or sand (geofagia) was a traditional practice among many groups, from Native Americans to Amazonian tribes.

  • Dec 312010

    Breast cancer is a neglected disease in Mozambique

    Editors Note: Mercedes Sayagues discussing breast cancer and hospital/patient awareness.

    For a change, I am happy to be queuing at the photocopying shop.

    I could queue the whole day, for the shop is air-conditioned on this Hot-Sticky-Maputo-Summer Day with 36 degrees Celsius and 200% humidity.

    I read a magazine, my pile of clippings on the counter. On top, last week’s story about breast cancer.

    People here know little about breast cancer. HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and cholera get the lion’ s share of attention, information and money.

  • Dec 112010

    Journalists in Mozambique Tread a Careful Line Between Medical Fact and Local Lore

    On the first day, only the girls in the afternoon shift at one classroom fainted. First one, then four, 20 by the end of the week. In the second week, the fainting spells spread to all the classes of the Quisse Mavota High School in the periphery of Maputo. Among its 4,475 pupils, only the older girls fainted. By the end of the second week, 120 girls were having fainting spells and these were spreading into the satellite school. Panic followed: parents, teachers and students alike were scared.

    The girls explained that the ancestor spirits were upset.

  • Nov 122010

    A toxic debate around a smelter

    Until June this year, the only bypass I knew had to do with heart surgery. But I discovered another kind of bypass when the Mozambican government authorized the Mozal smelter to emit its fumes and dust directly into the air (bypassing filters) during four months.

  • Sep 252010


    How do you put out a paper when riots have paralyzed the city?

    By building calf muscles as strong as Diego Forlan’s!

    We walked. And walked. On day 2 of the riots, Fernando Mbanze, the editor of Savana sister’s publication, Media Fax started walking at 6:30 am and reached the newsroom 22 kms later, at 10:30. Several times the Savana car tried to reach him but either protesters or police, barricades of burning tyres or random shooting, prevented the car from going through. So Mbanze walked on.

    Fearing their cars might be stoned, damaged or burnt, car owners did not venture out.

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